Depleted at safety, Redskins give looks to Kevin Barnes, Macho Harris
The Redskins will take the field this Sunday with just three healthy safeties on the roster. They've lost Chris Horton and Anderson Russell to the injured reserved list, and LaRon Landry has been ruled out of Sunday's game. Making matters a bit worse, Macho Harris, signed Tuesday, has had just three practices to learn the Redskins' system and could see most of his playing time on special teams.
The Redskins have been giving second-year cornerback Kevin Barnes practice reps at safety this week, in case they need to call him into duty.
"Unbeliveably smart," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "He probably had the least mental mistakes of anybody we had in the offseason."
Still, Reed Doughty and Kareem Moore will see almost all of the defensive snaps at safety. It might take an injury for coaches to turn to Barnes or Harris this soon.
"I'm not going to call anything they don't know or we can't handle," Haslett said.
Haslett especially likes Barnes' quickness and cover skills and says it's time to find out how much Barnes can help a team. Barnes was active for just three games last season as a rookie, and though he has been active for four of the team's 10 games this season, he didn't set foot on the field in one of those and contributed primarily on special teams in two others.
He played cornerback in place of an injured Carlos Rogers in nickel situations last Sunday. Haslett said linebackers H.B. Blades and Andre Carter might have been the Redskins' defensive MVPs at Tennessee, but he also raved about Barnes' play.
"Here's a guy who hasn't played, hasn't been active in two years. Third-round draft pick -- got to find out if he can play," Haslett said. "He goes in there; he does a great job. No one even knew that Carlos was missing and from that standpoint, in nickel, I thought Kevin did a great job."
"Any time you have seven defensive backs, you've got a lot of guys playing a lot of different positions," Coach Mike Shanahan said. "You've got to play nickel, you've got to play nickel, you've got to play safety. Kevin is a guy we've asked to do a lot of things. Very smart guy. Even though he doesn't have a lot of playing experience, we've asked him to do a lot mentally and he can handle it well."
As for Harris, the Redskins like his progress this week. He was a cornerback at Virginia Tech, and it could take some time to learn the safety position in the Redskins' defense.
"Obviously, the terminology is different from where he was, so that's the catching-up part," Haslett said. "I think he moves well; he's got good hands; he's smart. ... So far, I think he's done a good job."
| November 26, 2010; 2:31 PM ET
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