After his first two seasons with the Redskins, Infeanyi Ohalete was well on his way to becoming a nice success story. The undrafted free agent out of USC was a solid special teams player during his rookie 2001 season. Last year he claimed the starting strong safety spot by midseason. Playing on a defense that finished ranked fifth in the NFL, Ohalete intercepted three passes, good for second on the team in that category. It appeared that he would enter training camp in 2003 as the slam-dunk starter.
He is still the starter at this point, but there have been moments of doubt in the past few months. One came around the time of the NFL draft. The name on many lips, including some at Redskins Park, was Ohio State safety Mike Doss. It appeared that he would be available when the Redskins initial selection in the draft, in the second round, and would be a significant upgrade over Ohalete at the strong safety spot.
Doss was available when the Redskins picked, but so was receiver Taylor Jacobs and Washington snapped up Steve Spurrier's former star wideout, who they had rated as a mid-first round talent.
That put talk of replacing Ohalete on hold, but only for a while. Every few weeks, when a free agent safety like ex-Saint Sammy Knight would be making the rounds to decide on a team, defensive coordinator George Edwards has had to come out and say that the Redskins aren't interested, that the were comfortable going into the 2003 season with Ohalete, Matt Bowen, David Terrell, and Andre Lott as their safeties.
It remains to be seen how this challenge to Ohalete's job, however mild, affects the player. He could take it as a challenge, an "I'll show them" attitude, step up his preparation to a new level and have a breakout season. On the other hand, he could play scared and tentative, worried about making a mistake. The former approach will bode well for the Redskins 2003 defense. The latter will turn what is a position of adequate strength into one of weakness.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has detailed coverage of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For details, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com
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