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Redskins. Vs. Eagles: Brandon Meriweather's Energetic Return Breathes Life To Redskins Secondary

The Redskins secondary had their best performance of the season against the Eagles Sunday, and it's no coincidence that it came on the heels of safety Brandon Meriweather's return to the lineup.

Patrick Smith

LANDOVER, MD - Brandon Meriweather knows how to fire up his teammates.

Before the Washington Redskins' game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, he and secondary-mate DeAngelo Hall engaged in a pre-game wager to see who would have more tackles by game's end.

And about an hour after a dominating 31-6 victory, the chirpy Meriweather was eager to update his teammate on who won, even while the latter was in the middle of his post-game media session.

"Hey D!" he shouted at Hall. "It was a tie, 7 [to] 7."

The exchange drew a chuckle from Hall and the assembled media, but seemed to be emblematic of a suddenly looser, exuberant defensive secondary.

After missing the first nine games of the season due to a knee injury, Meriweather finally made his 2012 regular season debut against Philadelphia. The mere presence of the charismatic safety was a surprising boon to a much-maligned and lethargic secondary that was in dire need of an emotional boost.

"He brought a lot of energy," Hall said. "He brought a lot of intensity...I loved it."

Meriweather, who was signed in the offseason to a two-year, $6 million dollar contract, was brought in to help fill a void left by former strong safety Laron Landry. He was expected to bring the combination of physicality and coverage skills to the secondary. But because of his inconsistent play in stints with the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears, many observers wondered just how much of an impact he could have on an already-struggling secondary after such a long absence.

It only took one game to provide that answer.

The stat sheet says Meriweather registered seven tackles and one interception in just over a half of play, but his teammates cited his speed, energy and contagious tenacity that helped contribute to the team's best defensive performance of the season.

"He was a tone setter back there," said linebacker London Fletcher. "Making some hard hitting tackles, getting an interception. Just his can definitely appreciate him being back there. "

"I think everybody saw his impact," added coach Mike Shanahan. "We saw it throughout the preseason. He gives us a lot of energy back there and you can see what type of football player he is. He proved it today."

And how did it feel for Meriweather himself?

"It felt great," he said of his return. "It felt great to actually be out there with the guys that you went through the rain and the pain with [earlier in the season].

"I don't think it was me [that sparked the team]. I actually think the fact that all four starters were actually together for the first time just brought an [uptick] to our defense. We realized that everything falls on us, so we played like it."

Meriweather's energetic style of play is in stark contrast to how the secondary was playing prior to his return. An undermanned unit all season long, the Redskins were widely considered to have the worst pass defense in the league. Inadequate angles, poor coverage and bad tackling were recurring themes through the first nine games of the season. But with Meriweather in the lineup, it seemed the entire defensive backfield took on his personality - the coverage seemed tighter, the tackles were more form, the hits were harder, and the swagger was aplenty.

"When he got down here, we always talked about getting out there on the field and actually playing," said Hall, who matched Meriweather with an interception to go along with his seven tackles. "It took a couple weeks, but we finally got him out there. He was definitely a playmaker. He made plays. You could tell he was out there on the field."

And though Meriweather provided that spark early on, he wasn't able to finish the game, suffering yet another knee injury. The jovial safety brushed off any concern of a long-term injury, quipping that the knee "felt real good".

Should he return in short order, perhaps the Redskins secondary can change the narrative that seemed inescapable throughout the 2012 season prior to Sunday's game.

As for that bet between Hall and Meriweather?

"We both finished with 7 [tackles]," Hall said with a grin, "I guess we'll carry it on [to] next week."