As recent as last year, Washington Redskins safety LaRon Landry was walking a fine line between being an average player and a good player who still has some growing up to do. In comes Jim Haslett to install a new defense, and re-program a loose cannon into a guided missile. In Landry's case, focus is a dangerous thing for whatever target he points himself at.
He isn't perfect, but if Landry has proven to be good at one thing, it is making opposing offenses hurt.
If you sift through the highlight reels centered around Landry, his ability to hit hard is well documented. When he makes contact with a ball carrier, they go backwards. But last season showed that Landry was out of position at free safety.
Chalk it up to the poor scheme and seemingly apathetic defensive coordinator Greg Blache. Haslett is a different type of coach which has made Landry a different type of player.
One of the first things Haslett did upon coming to Washington was installing the 3-4 defense, and playing Landry closer to the line of scrimmage at strong safety. It was apparent in the Redskins' Week 1 victory over Dallas that Landry had turned a corner in his development.
Players don't tally 17 total tackles in a single game by accident, and his performance since the opener has proven this is Landry's breakout year.
Landry being moved closer to the line of scrimmage has done wonders for his overall level of play. He isn't being asked to do as much in coverage, which was an obvious weakness last season. Between the game against Denver and two against the Eagles, Landry was guilty of looking at the quarterback's eyes and falling for pump fakes on double moves.
When Landry bit on pump fakes, it left corners DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers without their expected safety help over the top. It led to completions of 40 and 75 yards against Denver and completions of 57 and 35 yards, all for touchdowns.
Without having to do as much pass coverage as last season, Landry spends a lot of his time roving linebacker territory and rushing into the backfield.
He is more like a free linebacker than a safety, but he is a lot faster and looks to be nothing but muscle. He is proving to be the metaphorical unstoppable force coming out the Redskins secondary.
Last season, Landry finished with 90 tackles, one sack, one interception and two forced fumbles. Through five games this season, he has 52 tackles, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble. For his performance against the Green Bay Packers, he earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
He is a safety with gaudy tackle numbers, and is on pace for over 150 tackles. He is still one of the more feared hitters in the league, but now he's added some form to his tackling. Rather than just launching himself at ball carriers, he is wrapping them up.
Last season, after any tackle he made, Landry would often celebrate his feat. It made no sense because at least half of his tackles came downfield or were well after the offense had crossed the first down line. This year, he is making tackles near, at, or behind the line of scrimmage.
He's earning the right to shake his head at opponents after stopping them in their tracks.
We will have to wait and see how the season progresses for Landry, the defense and the Redskins as a whole. If he keeps up his current level of play, he'll likely earn Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career. For someone who was once considered to be a mass of talent with no direction, Landry is proving that he can be and wants to be the NFL's best strong safety.