First, it was the potential of the pairing. When LaRon Landry was drafted in 2007, he and Sean Taylor would transform the safety position. Landry, who signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets Monday, would allow Taylor to play his more natural spot of free safety, giving the Redskins a headhunter and a playmaker. Sometimes Taylor would be both.
In only nine games together, it was obvious this pairing could become something special. And it gave the Redskins’ defense something that would put it ahead of the curve: safeties with speed. It would allow them to match up well with offenses that went no-huddle or used empty backfield sets – the Redskins would not have to sub in an extra corner and could remain in base coverage.
It’s everything they need to find in safeties now. I used to love watching how they used Taylor to disguise coverages, sometimes lining him up in the left slot only to have him drop to the deep right half of the field. Gregg Williams had plans for Landry and Taylor to grow together. It’s one of the things we talked about after Taylor’s death, the regret and pain obvious in Williams’ face. A coach with his creativity and aggression with those two safeties? Man.
And that changed everything. Now we’re left to wonder how good they could have become. Those who coached these two still wonder the same thing. It was a topic even last year.
Still, Landry had enough talent to blossom on his own. Some experts said he perhaps did not have All-Pro talent like Taylor, but he did have Pro Bowl ability. Finally, three years after Taylor’s death, we saw what Landry could become when defensive coordinator Jim Haslett moved him closer to the line. He was a terrific blitzer; he had that LaVar Arrington closing speed when he sensed the kill.
But after those first eight games of 2010 we did not see that Landry again.
After eight games Landry was in the running for defensive player of the year. But then injuries hit. And then they hit again. He played this past season, but his impact wasn’t great (yeah, he did have that hit on Laurent Robinson in Dallas). He didn’t really make game-changing plays and too often he celebrated big hits after plays that resulted in first downs.
But he was never truly healthy and it showed, with him eventually needing to shut it down again. He talked about wanting to return, but it was clear a change of scenery was needed. And it’s clear the coaches grew tired of wondering if he would play.
When the season ended I thought there was a chance he would return on a small one-year deal. He could play a full season, proving he could stay healthy, and then cash in. It would be smart: he knew the system here and was comfortable. But when he opted for no surgery, his days were done here.
The No. 1 thing a player must be in this league is available. If they’re not, it doesn’t matter how much talent they have. And every time you’d ask a coach about him returning, the No. 1 thing they’d talk about was… his health. They couldn’t trust that he’d stay healthy.
So now he’s gone, with a few glimpses of awesome play but mostly thoughts of what might have been.