Coleman will be missed

Before the start of the playoffs three years ago, defensive end Marco Coleman paid a visit to receiver Michael Westbrook in the trainer's room. He sat with him and told him how much Washington needed him during the upcoming game.

Westbrook paid attention, mainly because he couldn't believe Coleman--a defensive guy--had sought him out to talk with him. But that's the kind of leadership Coleman provided during his three years in Washington. He's the best leader I've seen in my eight years covering the Redskins.

And it's exactly what the Redskins will miss once they cut him.

Both sides knew it eventually would come to this. But it's a shame Coleman will be hurt, which in turn will hurt the Redskins. Coleman is a year removed from his first Pro Bowl appearance and played hurt most of last season. At times it showed.

But Coleman played as much as he could with a bum shoulder among other ailments. He missed four games; others would have missed more. And, with the injuries, he continued to practice. It's funny: the two best practice players faced one another every day in Coleman and right tackle Jon Jansen.

Coleman set a tone in practice that others had to reach. It's no coincidence that the defenses have been solid during his tenure. And that's something fellow end Bruce Smith can't do. It's well-known that Smith would rather not practice. Or at least not practice very often.

By all rights Smith should be gone, too. He's expensive and way past his prime. Maybe he can be pass-rush specialist this season. But he's a costly one. And he doesn't provide the everyday grit that Coleman did. However, Smith is almost as tight with owner Daniel Snyder as Darrell Green. Smith wore out a path to the owner's office last season.

It's not right. But it's life so Coleman is gone and the Redskins will save money. But they'll be all the poorer for it.

Not that Washington will fade. Linebacker Jessie Armstead is a similiar locker-room leader and LaVar Arrington has developed there as well. The Redskins could also recoup some of that leadership by making another smart move: signing guard Ray Brown.

The ex-Redskin blossomed in San Francisco after Washington's previous regime of Charley Casserly and Norv Turner considered him too expensive to keep. But Brown kept working and improving and, like Coleman, made his first Pro Bowl late in his career.

Brown doesn't have much time left. At 39, maybe he only has one season. But that would be enough to have his work ethic and attitude rub off on some of the younger guards such as David Loverne or Alex Sulfsted or Ross Tucker. They need a mentor and Brown would give them one. Rod Jones could use help, too and Brown's experience and versatility could help ease his transition from tackle to guard.

Brown also would provide a boost in the locker room. With Coleman gone, the Redskins could use one.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers.

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