"I knew they were going to come after me because I'm a rookie out there and they look on the other side and they see [veteran corner Shawn Springs] on the other side," Rogers said. "I feel good other than being a little winded. My ankle didn't bother me."
Rogers, starting in place of injured veteran Walt Harris, spent the first two weeks of training camp on the non-football injury list while recovering from a badly sprained ankle he suffered before mini-camp in June. Rogers, whose foot was immobilized for a month, only began practicing on Monday so he had just three full-go sessions before taking the field against the talented Bengals offense.
However, the former Auburn star didn't waste much time becoming a central figure in the action. Rogers ended the Bengals' second possession by running stride for stride with Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson on a pass from Carson Palmer that fell incomplete. Rogers showed his inexperience on the next series, giving the Bengals new life with an illegal contact penalty on third-and-17 from the Washington 9-yard line. Six plays later, Rogers was fortunate not to be penalized again as he hit the sliding Palmer in the helmet. But two plays after that, Rogers stepped in front of Tony Stewart, picked off Palmer's pass and dashed to the Cincinnati 25. Patrick Ramsey put Washington ahead with a strike to James Thrash on the next play.
"We were just in a cover-2 zone," Rogers said. "I knew they drag the tight end to the back side and coming back, [Palmer] would never see me."
Redskins assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams preferred Rogers over more highly-touted fellow rookie corners Antrel Rolle and Pacman Jones because the Augusta, Ga. native could hit as well as cover. Rogers proved that on the Bengals' next drive, smacking the ball from wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh. But when Cincinnati got the ball back, Rogers looked like an un-drafted rookie instead of a player expected to be a Redskins fixture for the next decade.
After buying Johnson's inside fake and being beaten for 8 yards on third-and-6, Rogers was burned on a go route by Houshmandzadeh. Saved when the receiver dropped the sure touchdown, Rogers' reprieve lasted all of one play as Kelley Washington ran the same deep pattern and easily hauled in a 45-yard scoring toss from Palmer with Rogers trailing.
- Aug. 30 -- Cuts
- Sept. 4 -- Final Cuts
Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington, starting defensive tackle Brandon Noble and cornerback Carlos Rogers, the team's top draft choice, were activated from the physically unable to perform (Arrington and Noble) and non-football injury (Rogers) lists and returned to practice on Monday.
With cornerbacks Walt Harris (calf) and Artrell Hawkins (hamstring) out, Rogers immediately went in with the starters. Noble went around rather than over the small steps during a drill on Monday, but by Tuesday, he was beating blockers with his inside moves. Arrington, who had just two snaps against the offense, is being worked in the slowest because he had been off the field for the better part of 11 months and the Redskins don't want him to suffer any setbacks.
"What is there to talk about?" Arrington asked as he walked to the locker room. "It's a great day. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. It's one practice, one play at a time. (Having some contact) was a new experience, but I was pretty excited."
Arrington's physical woes date back to last September when he had his right knee scoped after playing just two games. He suffered a deep bone bruise while running during rehab in October and didn't return to the field until he played two ineffective games as a backup in December before shutting it down for the finale. Arrington was scoped again April after experiencing swelling and missed the bulk of the team's off-season conditioning program.
"LaVar was ragged, like a guy who hadn't practiced, like a guy coming off knee surgery," linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said. "He was supposed to do an 'X' amount, and that's what we let him do. Last year, he jumped into some things, and we didn't help him, so this year we're going to make sure that it's going to be done (conservatively)."
Lemar Marshall, who filled in on the weak side when Arrington was out last year, has been moved to middle linebacker. Warrick Holdman, who played great under Lindsey in Chicago, is currently starting in Arrington's usual spot. Arrington will be worked in slowly, perhaps first as a situational pass rusher. Arrington's state of mind also remains an issue as he blasted the Redskins this spring for not caring enough about him and his $6.5 million grievance dating to his contract renegotiation of December 2003 remains unresolved.
Noble, who missed all of 2003 after tearing all three ligaments in his right knee in that year's preseason opener but fought back to play in every game in 2004, had a cleanup scope in April only to be laid low for the next six weeks by a staph infection. He's expected to split time with Joe Salave'a again this season.
"To sit around and watch gets old," Noble said. "To run sprints gets real old. It's nice when you've gone through something like (his medical situation) to get that first double-team, that first shot from one of those big fellows and know you're OK. It was good to be out there with my buddies. My goal is Sept. 11 (the season opener). Whatever preseason game they let me go play in, I'll go."
Defensive line coach Greg Blache was surprised to even be asked about Noble because of the latter's warrior mentality.
"Brandon's a tough guy," Blache said. "This is a little bump in the road for him after what he overcame last year. You know he's going to come back with his fist balled. We wanted to let Brandon feel comfortable that he was healthy and he responded well."
Rogers, the ninth pick overall, sprained an ankle while working before June's mini-camp and aggravated the injury that weekend. He wound up with his foot immobilized for a month when an old stress fracture and a new bone bruise were discovered. Rogers is expected to be the nickel corner behind veterans Harris and Shawn Springs.
"It felt good to get back out here," Rogers said. "I did better than I thought I would. I really don't have any limitations. I just have to get my wind back and come out of certain breaks a little better. I wasn't thinking about my ankle at all."
Safety Ryan Clark left Redskin Park Tuesday morning clutching a small trophy as if it were an Oscar. Turns out that he had won the "You're Nothing Award" which will be given each week in honor of former cornerback Fred Smoot to the defensive player who makes the biggest impact. Linebacker Marcus Washington won the first week. "I can't believe that they're still doing it," Smoot said between laughs from Minnesota's training camp. "It's like, 'you might think you're something, but you're really nothing.' That means that Ryan must have made some plays. I hope he's proud of himself."
Five Redskins have played at least 10 years. Punter Tom Tupa has played in a Super Bowl and a Pro Bowl. Quarterback Mark Brunell and offensive lineman Ray Brown have been to Pro Bowls and conference championship games. Tight end Brian Kozlowski has started a Super Bowl. Then there's snapper Ethan Albright, who hasn't even played in a playoff victory during his 10 years in Buffalo and Washington. Not only has the 34-year-old Albright lasted for a decade in the league, he's one of just three Redskins to have gotten on the field for coaches Marty Schottenheimer (2001), Steve Spurrier (2002-2003) and Gibbs. Albright's fellow survivors since 2001 are Pro Bowl veterans LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels. Albright just goes about his business, quietly and efficiently.
Redskins rookie running back Jonathan Combs fumbled just before he crossed the goal line in the steamy weather of Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium on Aug. 13 and he thinks he knows why. The extremely muscled Combs sweats prodigiously and believes he lost his grip in all the moisture. To prevent a reoccurrence, Combs is now wearing rippled arm sleeves around the elbows which are designed to absorb the sweat before it reaches his hands. Combs didn't handle the ball in the Aug. 19 preseason game with the Bengals.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was the Redskins' defensive coordinator just three years ago, but only end Renaldo Wynn and linebackers Lemar Marshall and LaVar Arrington remain from the unit that he improved from 10th in the NFL in 2001 to fifth in 2002.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The only guy who needs to be drug-tested here is Danny. He's
wired beyond belief." -- Gibbs on special teams coach Danny Smith, who
constantly runs and screams like a maniac during practice.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Washington's John Hall carries himself like a reigning Pro Bowl kicker, not one who missed half of last season with injuries.
"I was kicking pretty well before all that happened, so I don't feel like I have anything to prove," said the eight-year veteran, whose 20-yard field goal on the last play of the first half cut the Bengals' lead to 14-10. "I don't care what (fellow kicker Jeff Chandler) does. It's not personal. I just don't really feel like I'm in a competition. I'm just trying to do what I can do to help the team and get ready for a long season."
The 31-year-old Hall certainly helped ensure his job by making his field goal tries in the Aug. 6 scrimmage at Baltimore (41 yards) and in the Aug. 13 preseason opener at Carolina (43) while Chandler, who kicked in the final three games of 2004 after Hall went on injured reserve, missed both of his attempts (from 41 and 42, respectively).
"Unfortunately I missed those field goals," said Chandler, who kicked for San Francisco (2002-2003) and Carolina (2004) before coming to Washington. "You only get so many opportunities and you want to make the best of them. I knew I had an uphill fight here, but I just have to do what I can. If it doesn't work out here, hopefully it will work out somewhere else."
Hall put his only kickoff against the Bengals in the end zone while Chandler's pair only made it to the 11- and 13-yard lines after the 26-year-old pretender had reached the end zone on both kickoffs at Carolina. Hall didn't kick off at Carolina, but the battle is over.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: With last year's strong safeties Matt Bowen (five starts before season-ending knee surgery) and Ryan Clark (11 starts) both spraining knees in practice last week, assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams had to stop punishing Sean Taylor for blowing off the entire off-season conditioning program and elevated him back into the lineup.
Pierson Prioleau, who started every game for Williams in Buffalo in 2002 and 2003, started next to Taylor and is making a push to open the season there ahead of Clark and Bowen. Williams praised Clark's camp before the latter was hurt while Bowen had a great first week. If the Redskins keep five safeties, the fifth should be Omar Stoutmire, who's on the kickoff and kickoff return teams. Tony Dixon, out nearly two weeks with a strained hamstring, appears to be out of luck. Former Falcon Siddeeq Shabazz just signed on Wednesday after ex-Denver and Houston starter Eric Brown's tenure lasted one day. Stoutmire had five tackle against the Bengals, one more than Prioleau and two more than Taylor. Shabazz, who doesn't know the system, had two stops.
Reserve OLB: LaVar Arrington is the wild card here. If the three-time Pro Bowl pick, who played in just three games after injuring a knee in the 2004 opener, can show the coaches that he's back, he'll regain the weak side job opposite Marcus Washington. That would make former Chicago and Cleveland starter Warrick Holdman the No. 1 backup. Chris Clemons flashed superb pass rushing skills in limited duty in 2004, but committed a silly late hit against the Bengals. Khary Campbell, who forced a Cincinnati fumble on special teams, is a heady veteran coming off knee surgery. Undrafted rookie Zak Keasey is on three special teams and has drawn praise from defensive boss Gregg Williams. And Jared Newberry, who had a sack at Carolina, is a draft pick, albeit a sixth-rounder. The choices here aren't going to be easy.
Backup C: Cory Raymer, 32, has been a starter, when healthy, for most of his 10 seasons. Never a great athlete, Raymer is slowing down. The Redskins gave his starting job to free agent pickup Casey Rabach in March. Lennie Friedman, 29, has only been a starter for one full season and half of two others during his six years in the NFL. Friedman is also quick enough to play guard. Raymer is more of the down and dirty throwback that line coach Joe Bugel has always liked.
This could be a very close call.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Marcus Washington could be forgiven if he was taking it a little easy. After all, the strong side linebacker more than justified the six-year, $22.5 million contract the Washington Redskins gave him in March by finishing his best season with the team's only Pro Bowl appearance. However, relaxing just isn't Washington's nature.
"You can't slow down," explained the 27-year-old Washington, who hit quarterback Carson Palmer on a blitz to force a hurried incompletion to end the Bengals' first series of the Aug. 19 preseason game and dumped running back Rudi Johnson for a 10-yard loss to start the visitors' third possession. "That's close to stopping. You've got to keep going."
Just three days after having a cyst removed from the base of his spine, Washington was one of a handful of veterans who made the effort to come watch rookie mini-camp the last weekend of April.
When the coaches suggested during June's veteran mini-camp that Washington, because of the mandatory time off after surgery, was a little behind in his conditioning, he reacted by remaining at Redskin Park to work out while his teammates started their summer vacations.
The other afternoon when training camp was sluggish as it gets during two-a-days, Washington was chest-bumping teammates and running around joyously like a kid who has just finished school for the year.
"I like my guys to look at me and say, 'Marcus is out there hitting and going, that's what we want to do,' " Washington said. "There are so many other guys that want to be where we are. We're very privileged to be doing what we do. Sometimes guys take it for granted. I don't. You have to take every day for what it's worth and leave it all on the field."
That Washington does. Left end Renaldo Wynn recalled the reaction of some New York players to Washington during the last minute of the Giants' victory over the visiting Redskins last Sept. 19. It was a frustrating afternoon for the defense which stopped the Giants on 12 of 13 third downs only to be done in by the offense's seven turnovers. But Washington made a career-high 14 tackles, 10 solos.
"A lot of those guys on the Giants were like 'No. 53, Man! What's his deal?'" Wynn remembered. "I said, 'This dude is full-speed.' Even when they were kneeling the ball, he's still coming. Marcus only has one speed, even in practice. He just loves the game."
That attitude, along with the athletic ability that produced the most quarterback pressures (11), second-most tackles (130) and third-most sacks (4-1/2) for the NFL's No. 3 defense last year, led Joe Gibbs to say he has never seen a more "consummate pro." This is from a man who coached likely Hall of Famers Art Monk and Darrell Green for 12 years each. But Washington has the bubbly personality that the introspective Monk lacked and by the nature of his position, he's more involved in the physical intensity than Green was at cornerback.
Like Monk and Green, both renowned for their relentless work habits, Washington is never satisfied that he has it made. While many players spout the pabulum about having to improve in all aspects, Washington quickly admits that pass coverage still doesn't come naturally to him five years after he made the switch from defensive end, his position at Auburn.
"I have to prove to myself that last year wasn't luck, that I just didn't fall into something," said Washington, a good but not great player during his four years in Indianapolis before coming to the Redskins last March. "It's easy to get on top, but it's tough to stay there. I don't want to be an (Cincinnati one-year wonder) Ickey Woods. I want to be a Jerry Rice, a Junior Seau, guys that do it year after year. Those are the guys you try to model yourselves after."
After just one season in burgundy and gold, Washington is already a model Redskin.
- QB Jason Campbell (1B) will start the season third-string, but that status might not last the year. However, after a solid debut at Carolina, Campbell didn't play against Cincinnati as Gibbs gave veterans Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell one half apiece.
- HB Manuel White (4) continues to adjust to the H-back role after being mostly a tailback at UCLA. White has yet to catch a pass or carry the ball against an opponent. It's hard to see a 4th-rounder not making the team, but it's curious that he hasn't been much involved.
- LB Robert McCune (5) was praised by assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams for his play at Carolina and had four tackles (three solos) against Cincinnati. McCune, competing with Clifton Smith behind middle linebacker Lemar Marshall, is also a regular on kickoff coverage.
- LB Jared Newberry (6) had two tackles against Baltimore, four and a sack at Carolina and two (both solo) against Cincinnati. Veterans Khary Campbell, Chris Clemons and un-drafted rookie Zak Keasey are also competing for backup jobs outside.
- FB Nehemiah Broughton (7) led the team with five catches (for 45 yards) and carried the ball seven times for 23 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati. Broughton also lost a fumble, which will hurt him in his battle for the No. 3 RB/FB job with veteran Rock Cartwright.
- P Tom Tupa (back) sprained his back in warm-ups before this past Friday's game with Cincinnati and is day to day.
- RB Clinton Portis (elbow) was limited in practice last Wednesday and didn't face Cincinnati. He should return this week.
- Matt Bowen (knee) suffered a mild MCL sprain in last Wednesday's practice, didn't face Cincinnati and could return this week.
- CB Walt Harris (calf) strained his calf during last Monday's practice and didn't face Cincinnati but should return this week.
- S Ryan Clark (knee) suffered a mild PCL sprain in his right knee in last Monday's practice but could return this week.
- OT Mark Wilson (back) sprained his lower back in the Aug. 13 loss at Carolina and could return this week.
- LB LaVar Arrington (knee surgery) was activated from PUP on Aug. 15 and has an outside chance of playing against Pittsburgh on Friday.
- DT Brandon Noble (staph infection) was activated from PUP on Aug. 15 and will probably see action against Pittsburgh on Friday.
- WR Taylor Jacobs (sprained left big toe) was hurt during the Aug. 6 scrimmage in Baltimore, and should be day-to-day.
- CB Artrell Hawkins (strained hamstring) was hurt during practice on Aug. 2 and has a chance of returning this week.
- S Tony Dixon (strained hamstring) was hurt during practice on Aug. 8 and has a chance of returning this week.