An undrafted cornerback in 2015, Deshazor Everett made an impressive switch to safety last year and will now have an opportunity to start against Green Bay this Saturday.
Redskins safety Deshazor Everett knew last Sunday's training camp practice in Richmond wasn't very sharp. He gave up a couple of plays and it left a bad taste in his mouth.
"You know as a player when you don't do good, and I knew I definitely didn't," Everett said. "It's really annoying, as a player. I don't want the ball called on me. I don't want to fit the wrong gap in the wrong break. You look bad. I don't like looking bad."
That prompted a self-imposed meeting with defensive backs coach Torrian Gray to "refocus in." Everett wanted to work on his keys and listen to Gray's advice about practicing more consistently, working on why he hadn't been as sharp as he wanted. It seemed to have helped.
During the first practice back at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park on Wednesday, Everett, filling in for injured strong safety Su'a Cravens, looked like he belonged with the first-team defense. Aggressive but playing with smart technique, Everett's biggest play came in defending a pass against wide receiver Jamison Crowder, jumping his route over the middle and preventing a touchdown.
"I had to work on my keys," Everett said. "That's why I was able to make that play, honestly, just reading my keys, reading the quarterback, and just breaking on the route… when I saw Crowder breaking I just drove on it."
It was the kind of the play the Redskins are hoping to see more of, especially this Saturday against the Packers, when it's possible that Everett will receive his first career start in the NFL. After 37 games -- including the preseason, regular season and postseason – as a backup and special teams enforcer, Everett will have an opportunity for the next three preseason matchups to show his skillset to coaches, while Cravens recovers from a knee scope that doesn't promise a set return date.
"I approach it the same way I come to work every day," Everett said. "It's another day to play football. It's another day to go out there and show the coaches what I can do and, you know, just learn some things because there's definitely going to be plays that I'm pretty sure that I'm going to see that I haven't seen before.
"I have to get some coaching going. And it gives me an opportunity to start preparing for the season as far as game planning, because, you know, we get a game plan this week, and going out there, knowing what to expect and getting ready to play."
It will take some getting used to, as it did last year when Everett, a cornerback undrafted from Texas A&M in 2015, switched positions to safety to help a depleted veteran unit. Without the aid of the sidelines, Everett had to adjust to playing behind the defense, communicating better and taking the right angles on plays, responsibilities that take time to learn. He made an impression last December with an interception against the Eagles, and has developed more with a full year under his belt.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their preseason Week 2 game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park
"It's a major adjustment period," head coach Jay Gruden said. "As an offensive guy, I think a DB's a DB right? 'It's a DB, just go back there and play safety.' But it's a lot harder than you think – angles, positions, communication, run fits, finishing plays, all that stuff. I think he's becoming more and more comfortable playing a middle third, playing a half, playing quarters. His run fit responsibilities – when they shift out to empty, when they go unbalanced – I mean there's a lot of things a safety has to communicate and I think he's learning more and more and feeling more comfortable."
That was noticeable on a couple of different plays, when Everett stuck to tight end Niles Paul on a deep route and forced an overthrow from Kirk Cousins. On another play, he charged the box untouched to pop running back Rob Kelley and keep his gain to a minimum.
After playing on the second-team defense, Everett has noticed a slight difference in the competition level playing with the ones, and is hoping to keep progressing in practice.
"The ones settle things a little better as far as run-pass," Everett said. "Kirk's going to execute, throws are going to be on the money. He's going to hard count you until you show your hand. I mean, he's really good at that. It's the one offense, you're going to get the best from them."
Gruden has liked what he's seen from the position and the depth he sees emerging throughout the daily competitions at practice. Everett will likely get an opportunity he's never had before against the Packers, hoping to make depth chart decisions challenging for his head coach.
"It wasn't like the safety spots were set in stone," Gruden said. "We have our starters that go out there with the ones, but at the end of the day, everybody's competing for the first-string job. Deshazor's no different, [Will] Blackmon's no different, and they're all competing. Obviously, now Montae [Nicholson's] back in the mix. He's flying around and doing some good things, he's in the mix. So it will be interesting to see. These next three games are going to be very important to see who that other safety is."