The Redskins bulked up the defensive backfield on Wednesday with the signing of Donte Whitner and Josh Evans. Whitner still feels like he's a Pro Bowl caliber players while Evans is ready to contribute any way possible.
It wasn't like he needed it anyway, but Donte Whitner is coming to Washington with a chip on his shoulder with everything that has happened to him this calendar year.
Signing with his hometown Cleveland Browns prior to the 2014 season, Whitner was expected to be the veteran leader for a young defensive unit.
But with just two years completed on his four-year contract, and well after the free agent frenzy of 2016 had passed, Whitner was let go by Cleveland.
Not until the Redskins signed Whitner on Wednesday was the three-time Pro Bowler on an active roster.
"Over the last 10 years playing in the National Football League knowing that you're going to play and then you get slapped in the face with a release on like the last day of free agency before you report to offseason training," Whitner said. "It's really like a slap in the face. If I was sleep walking or anything before I'm definitely woke now. I'm ready to play the game."
For his 10-year career, Whitner has collected more than 850 tackles along with 53 passes defensed, 11 interceptions and 11 fumbles forced.
Yes, a history of success is certainly there, but at 31 years old, some believe his best days are long behind him. Don't count the man himself in that group, though.
"I don't think I lost anything, so I think I can add everything in the world," Whitner said. "If you actually look at it, I was maybe one of only five safeties to make the Pro Bowl three times out of the last four years. You got the two guys in Seattle, you got Eric Weddle, Eric Berry and myself and no other guys. I believe that I can play. Cleveland decided to go young. …That's last year's chapter, that chapter is over and I'm glad to start a new, fresh chapter here."
The Washington Redskins on Wednesday signed 10-year veteran safety Donte Whitner. Take a look at his NFL career in photos.
Throughout his time playing football, Whitner has been one of the hardest hitting safeties the game has ever seen. In fact, at one point Whitner wanted to shorten his name to "Hitner" to reflect his playing style.
"I've been doing it all my life, all the way from little league to high school to college to National Football League for 10 years," Whitner said. "I don't think you lose that explosiveness, you learn how to want physical contact overnight. It's almost like riding a bike. And that's why they call me 'Hitner.' That's what my name is because that's what I like to do. I don't think you lose that. It's just really like game shape, running around and getting winded, having to go through six- to eight-play drives. That's what I try to duplicate in my training before Sunday, I think I'll be ready for some contact on Sunday."
Whitner's part on the defense has yet to be laid out (he's joining a safeties group that is headlined for now by Will Blackmon and Duke Ihenacho – two backups turned starters ), but he's very confident that if given the opportunity to showcase his skills, he'll earn his playing time.
"If you go out there and you put it on tape and you're the best guy, then you're going to play," Whitner said. "And believing in myself, I truly, no matter what locker room I step in, I feel like I'm going to be the best guy and I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can to go out there and show that I'm on the best guy and put it on tape. They don't have to tell me anything about a role, I just have to get myself ready and be very knowledgeable within this scheme and within this defense."
Josh Evans Ready To Step In And Produce
While some teams put out feelers for Evans after he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in September, the Redskins were the only team to extend an offer to the 25-year-old after he worked out in Washington last week.
"I felt like I did pretty good during my workout," Evans told the media on Wednesday. "I was in pretty good shape. The coaches and the GM told me I looked good during the workout and just to keep in contact. [Scot McCloughan] stuck to his word. He told me, 'We're going to try to get you here as soon as we can.' I was fortunate to get a call and have an opportunity to come back."
The Washington Redskins on Wednesday signed four-year veteran safety Josh Evans. Take a look at his NFL career in photos.
Evans is still a young player in the league, but the University of Florida product has already started 37 games in his NFL career.
As a rookie in 2013, the sixth-round pick appeared in 15 games with 11 starts, registering 58 tackles. In 2014 – his best statistical season to date – Evans totaled 90 tackles, third most among Jaguars players that year.
Then last season, Evans appeared in all 16 regular season games, starting 12. He finished the year with 53 tackles along with two passes defensed and his first career forced fumble.
While Evans doesn't quite know what his role will be for the Redskins yet, he believes he'll add value to the defensive backfield based on his ability to play both safety positions.
"Being able to play free safety and strong safety has helped me play three years and going on my fourth so far," Evans said. "I enjoy playing both, and it has helped me so far in my career."
Wednesday's practice was like the first day back in school after a long summer break, as he was last among defensive backs to go through individual drills. But he's going into this weekend's game against the Ravens with the mindset that he's going to play.
"To come in and be active, you have to be prepared for anything," Evans said. "You're one guy away or a certain scheme away from being part of it, so I'm going in with the plan to play.
"The biggest thing right now is to get in that playbook. To learn everything on the run and see how fast I can pick things up. Get out there, get on special teams, try and find my role on the defense and help this team anyway I can."