- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

The last time Day One of the NFL draft figured to be so uneventful at Redskin Park, President Bush’s father was an Oval Office rookie. That was back in 1989 when the Redskins had one pick in the first 109 (they took Auburn defensive tackle Tracy Rocker at No. 66 in the third round).

This time, the Redskins have the 53rd pick, late in tomorrow’s second round, and won’t pick again until late in the fifth round on Sunday.

So unlike the two previous drafts since the return of coach Joe Gibbs in 2004, when they had the glamorous choice of Miami safety Sean Taylor and Miami tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. at No. 5 overall and last year when they landed their preferred cornerback, Carlos Rogers, at No. 9, the Redskins probably will just take the best linebacker available at No. 53 in hopes of replacing the departed LaVar Arrington.

Neither run-of-the-mill veteran Warrick Holdman, a disappointing non-factor while starting the first seven games last year, nor the ultra-quick but inexperienced Chris Clemons will make Redskins fans forget Arrington. But that’s OK. This draft is just about universally regarded as being as rich in linebackers as any in recent years.

What’s more, the Redskins could go for an inside or outside linebacker since middle linebacker Lemar Marshall is capable of playing the weak side where he lined up for most of 2004 when Arrington was hurt.

The top outside linebackers — Ohio State’s A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter, Florida State’s Ernie Sims, Iowa’s Chad Greenway and Alabama’s DeMeco Ryans — will all be gone before the Redskins finally get to choose. So could the top inside linebacker, Maryland’s D’Qwell Jackson.

So the Redskins might well end up with either the speedy and aggressive Thomas Howard of Texas-El Paso (whose father, with the same name, played linebacker for Kansas City and Arizona) or Miami’s versatile Roger “Rocky” McIntosh. Taking Howard or McIntosh would keep Marshall inside with Holdman and Clemons competing with the rookie. Special teams ace Khary Campbell would remain Marshall’s top backup. The top inside options might include smooth Gerris Wilkerson of Georgia Tech or the more powerful Abdul Hodge of Iowa.

Once the Redskins get going on Day Two of the draft at No. 153, they have six of 98 picks. They acquired extra sixth-rounders in trades in which they gave up receiver Rod Gardner and quarterback Patrick Ramsey and an extra seventh-rounder they were awarded as compensation for losing free agents Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce after the 2004 season.

Depth is a serious concern at offensive tackle and safety. Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen are cornerstone tackles, but there’s no proven backup. Pierson Prioleau, who would become a starter if Sean Taylor winds up doing prison time, is the only reserve safety with NFL experience. With top corner Shawn Springs having turned 31, that position is an option, too.

Since new starting tight end Christian Fauria will be 35 in September, the Redskins could pick a project at that spot. The same holds at quarterback despite the presence of 2005 first-rounder Jason Campbell because starter Mark Brunell will be 36 in September and possible backup Todd Collins will be 35 in November. While Ladell Betts steps in nicely when star running back Clinton Portis needs a breather, Betts will be a free agent next March, so they could take a running back.

And although the Redskins haven’t drafted a kicker or punter in Dan Snyder’s six drafts as their owner, kicker John Hall’s inability to stay healthy the past two years and punter Derrick Frost’s mediocre Redskins debut in 2005 would seem to dictate choosing players at one or both positions.

Notes — Taylor’s trial in Miami on assault and battery charges, postponed until May 8 after the forced withdrawal of prosecutor Michael Grieco on April 12, is expected to be pushed back yet again now that Judge Mary Barzee has been relieved on an interim basis by Leonard Glick and Grieco has been replaced, at least temporarily, by Abe Laeser. Grieco resigned on Wednesday. Taylor faces up to 46 years in a Florida prison on three charges of brandishing a firearm and one count of simple battery stemming from an incident last June 1.

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