The Washington Redskins have been waiting a long time for Brandon Meriweather.
In their season opener, they chose to start E.J. Biggers at safety. He hadn't played the position since high school and said he didn't even practice the position until the week before the game.
"It is difficult at times. You're coming from a different angle on the field," said Biggers, who was a cornerback at Western Michigan and during his first three seasons in the NFL. "It kind of opens your eyes a little bit, knowing what your safeties go through."
The scenario illustrated a Redskins theme that has become more tiresome than anything associated with quarterback Robert Griffin III: They really need Meriweather to stop getting injured.
Meriweather has become the supernova that outshone everything for a brief moment — and then suddenly disappeared. The two-time Pro Bowl safety wowed the Redskins for nearly three quarters last year in between the knee injuries that ruled him out of the other 15 regular season games, and a strained groin suffered in practice last week kept him out of Monday night's 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
"That game he played last year was like he had a star in Mario Brothers," nose tackle Barry Cofield said. "He just runs through everything, invincible. He was at turbo speed and we were all regular people. If he can give us half that, it would be great."
It was therefore significant that Meriweather made it through a full practice this week. He said Thursday he feels great and again expressed his frustration that he hasn't been able to help the team.
"I realize it's just another hurdle that I have to get over," Meriweather said.
Given Meriweather's history of injuries, it was surprising that the Redskins threw together a Plan B only days before the opener. They announced veteran backup Reed Doughty as the likely starter when Meriweather was ruled out, but coach Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett went with Biggers against the fast-paced Eagles.
"We wanted to get more speed on the field," Haslett said.
Haslett was testy about all aspects of the Eagles loss, especially when the subject turned to Biggers. Haslett initially denied that Biggers practiced only a week at safety. When confronted with Biggers' own words, Haslett said it wasn't unusual to move someone to a new position on such short notice and then tried to change the subject.
"Are we going to take about this week's game?" Haslett said.
This week's game is against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, a task more daunting than usual given the Redskins' team-wide problems that surfaced against the Eagles. Coaches and players say the defensive breakdowns go back to basics such as missed tackles and poor communication, and not because they were facing Philadelphia's hurry-up attack for the first time. Philadelphia ran for 263 yards, the most rushing yards allowed by Redskins since 1996.
"I felt like we were prepared. ... We practiced tirelessly. We had too much time to practice, if anything. It almost gets into your head," Cofield said. "It was some fundamental things that we did wrong and there were some structural things, and when you put it all together, it was like a perfect storm."
Notes: Griffin will revert to wearing his right knee brace outside of his uniform for the Green Bay game. He wore it under his pants on Monday night because he was told erroneously that it was required by NFL rules. "There was a miscommunication," Griffin said, "and I don't have to cover up my knee brace." ... Cofield missed a tackle or two against the Eagles because of the enormous cast he wears to protect the broken bone in his right hand. "It's not ideal," he said, "but I feel like I was pretty effective." The burgundy cast was so huge that some people watching on TV mistook it for the ball. "I think I'm going to stick with the burgundy," he said. "Maybe it'll throw off the receivers. I'll throw up my hand and they might think the ball's been deflected."
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