Like a lucky fan who won a seat upgrade, Will Blackmon is going to have a much better view of the field in 2016.
After joining the Redskins in mid-September last season, the 10-year veteran contributed mostly as a corner in Joe Barry's defense. But a combination of reinforcements at that position and the need for help at safety has led to the coaching staff moving Blackmon back into the unit's last line, a place where he'll be able to digest all the action and keep an eye on every other player, friend and foe.
As he makes that transition though, he'll have to grasp how to process the piles of information that come at his new spot, where he's staring at it all and not just the receiver in front of him. And that's something that's been a major adjustment early on in his development.
"I think my gift and my curse is I can see everything," Blackmon said following Washington's OTA session in Ashburn on Wednesday. "I can see everything that's going on, I'm so aware, but I think I saw too much [at first]. I saw trees. I saw the waterboy. I saw tents.
"So there's a lot of mental stuff that, I think, process wise, I'm getting much better now," he continued. "So I'm actually happy where I am."
Much like teammate DeAngelo Hall, Blackmon is an experienced defender being asked to make a drastic switch late in his career. But Barry doesn't want outsiders to assume that, just because the pair has two-plus decades of time in the league between themselves, the switch will be one that's totally smooth.
"You can't just say, 'Hey, he's been in the NFL for 10 years, he can go play another position,'" Barry said. "There are subtle intricacies to every position. Going into safety, it's a different world. But both those guys have such great football awareness, great football instincts, and the good thing is they're going to get an entire offseason. They have attacked the position change and are really working their tail off."
Fortunately for Blackmon, not only does he have Hall to learn alongside, but he also has first-year Redskins such as Josh Norman, David Bruton and Greg Toler to grow with. He even mentioned that, in the secondary, "everyone's leaning on everyone," as the group as a whole is undergoing significant construction.
That united mentality should go a long way for the 31-year-old, especially considering the fact that, at safety, he'll really need to understand angles — something his past education won't assist with.
"You have to have enough depth," Blackmon said. "Know your situation, know your range, know what you can do, and you have to be spot on. They told me I had to be like a professor in geometry, but I majored in English, so I was already down one on that one."
That's why OTAs and training camp may feel a bit like summer school for Blackmon. Each practice is another class full of lessons and teaching moments. And because of the injury to Kyshoen Jarrett, plus the handful of other question marks on the defense's last level, he needs to stay on top of his work, since playing time is still very much at stake.
Week 1 is just more than three months away, after all, and that'll be the first of Blackmon's many big tests — tests Washington is counting on him being able to pass.