D.J. Swearinger prepared to bring winning attitude to Redskins secondary

Updated: August 12, 2017
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RICHMOND, Va. – After finishing the 2016 season ranked 28th in the NFL in total defense, the Washington Redskins were determined to improve on that side of the ball. Even though they lost a few key players in free agency, like defensive linemen Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois, the Redskins believe they’ve made upgrades at the right positions.

One player in particular who could be a colossal difference maker is safety D.J. Swearinger. The soon-to-be 26-year-old has immediately shown what he can bring to the table during training camp. He’s vocal, a hard hitter and most importantly, he’s a leader.

Swearinger is entering his fifth NFL season after starting his career with the Houston Texans, and spending time with both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals over the past two years. He’s taken on an integral role with each of those teams, most notably with the Texans where he started 22 of 32 games.

The former second-round pick knows that the Redskins’ secondary experienced some struggles last season, and wants to bring a winning pedigree to the group in 2017.

“I am trying to get this program to a winning secondary,” Swearinger told me at Redskins training camp. “I’m just trying to add my flavor here, to get us doing the right things technique wise. Running to the ball, getting hands on balls, punching the ball out, competing every day, small things like that which become big in the long run.”

While suiting up for the Cardinals, Swearinger had the opportunity to play alongside a few All-Pro defensive backs in Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. He’s aware that Washington has a different set of players in its secondary, but he also shows confidence in his new supporting cast.

“I like what we’ve got going here,” Swearinger said. “Norman, Breeland are two totally different corners. Can’t wait to see these guys fully padded when we [play] Philly.

“We’re taking it a day at a time. Norman and Breeland are both competing, both getting their hands on balls and making plays. I feel like our defense will be good.”

While Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland are experienced as starting corners at this stage of their careers, Swearinger has an additional role of helping groom Su’a Cravens, who is making the transition from a nickel- and dime-package linebacker to full-time safety.

Cravens will be spending more time inside the box due to his linebacker-type instincts, but his natural position is safety — which is what he played in college at USC. Though he’s young, Swearinger has a ton of starting experience and should be a perfect tutor for Cravens. And Washington still has DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon currently on the roster as veterans in the secondary.

But Swearinger’s energy and leadership is exactly what the Redskins needed on the backend of their defense, taking some of that load off Norman. While Phil Taylor Sr., Stacy McGee, Terrell McClain and Zach Brown are other notable names added to Washington’s defense this season, Swearinger’s role is the most intriguing. His impact at safety could help propel them to another level.

This year’s training camp is Swearinger’s first time visiting Richmond. But he hasn’t had a chance to explore the city — his focus remains on one thing: working hard.

“All work, no play. I’ve been having fun with my teammates and that’s all that matters in camp.”

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He has written for ESPN.com and is currently a digital editor at the SEC Network. He has covered the Washington Redskins for FanSided, and he has also covered high school basketball for Rivals.com and the Mechanicsville Local newspaper. Josiah is from Chesapeake, Va., and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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