COMMENTARY | New York Jets' safety Dawan Landry could turn out to mean substantially more to Jets fans than they currently realize. A relatively unknown player who is perhaps best known as being the brother of Pro Bowler LaRon Landry, he has a chance to make a name for himself in 2013.
Who is Dawan Landry?
While Dawan Landry is the brother of LaRon Landry and even plays the same position as him, his story is quite different. Initially a fifth-round draft pick in 2006, Landry had to fight to earn his playing time. He surprised some in the football world in his rookie season by being successful and even earning a vote for defensive rookie of the year.
He spent five seasons in Baltimore playing with the Ravens, where he worked with Rex Ryan, then a defensive coach for the Ravens and now the head coach for the Jets. Landry faced a nearly-catastrophic setback in 2008 when he suffered a severe spinal injury that almost ended his career. In that year, he was replaced by Jim Leonhard, who eventually followed Ryan to New York and became a key leader on the defensive unit that helped lead the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010.
Courage and Leadership
In 2009, Dawan Landry won the NFL's Ed Block Courage Award for coming back from spinal injury to become a full-time player. Yet in spite of that, Landry did not immediately slide into the leadership role he was close to in 2008. After two more years in Baltimore, he went to Jacksonville where he spent two years in relative obscurity on weak Jaguars teams.
After being quietly signed by the New York Jets this offseason, it might finally be time for the now-veteran Landry to step into a leadership role. Landry has not hesitated in impressing people within the organization, becoming the front-runner to start.
Already Landry has made an impression on Antonio Allen and Josh Bush, two incumbent safeties on the Jets roster. Said Allen (via Seth Walder of NYDailyNews.com), "He's been a good leader. We call him [old guy] because he's a vet... Anything I get confused with on the field, with the plays, I go straight to Dawan and ask him, how do we do this?"
Bush gave similar praise (also via Seth Walder): "One of the first days in meetings, Rex asked him a question. And he hadn't played for Rex for ... years ... and he knew the answer like this. So I was like boom, that's the guy you need to hang around."
The Opportunity is ThereOne thing that is clear is that an opportunity is there for Landry. The Jets' depth chart is wide open at safety. Both starting safeties from last season (his brother LaRon Landry and the veteran Yeremiah Bell) are off the team. While there was a popular expectation that the Jets would draft a safety, they did not.
One could argue that the Jets refrained from drafting a safety because of their faith in the backups Allen and Bush. Yet it is perhaps more reasonable to take it as a sign of their trust in Landry.
The starting job is right there for the taking. With only young players around him at safety, Landry could set the tone and become not only a key starter but also the senior member of that group of developing players.
In recent years, the Jets have had excellent cornerbacks but less-than-stellar safeties for the most part. If Landry can step into this role and make the safety group effective, then he could fill what is arguably the only major hole on the Jets' defense.
Adam Waksman is a Yahoo! contributor in sports. He also covers the New York Jets for Bleacher Report, where he is a Featured Columnist and award-winning blogger.
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