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Young and successful

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Quarterback Jason Campbell, 24, threw two touchdown passes.

Tight end Chris Cooley, 24, caught the game-winning, 66-yard score.

Linebacker Rocky McIntosh, 24, set up Campbell's first touchdown with a blocked punt.

Defensive tackle Kedric Golston, 23, started and made four tackles.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers, 25, had six tackles and three pass break-ups.

And safety Sean Taylor, 23, cemented the Washington Redskins' 17-13 victory Sunday over Carolina with an interception.

See a pattern forming?

Although the Redskins remain the NFL's oldest team and started six players 30 or older against the Panthers, a youth movement of sorts has been set in motion the last two games.

Campbell replaced Mark Brunell, 36, at quarterback and has four touchdown passes and one interception in two starts. Golston took a starting role from oft-injured Joe Salave'a, 31, and has produced a surprising rookie season.

Cooley, Rogers and Taylor have been starters all season. McIntosh is second on the team in special teams tackles while waiting for his shot at replacing 31-year-old Warrick Holdman.

"We do have a young team in a lot of areas," Campbell said yesterday at Redskin Park. "The more we continue to mature, the better things will get. For me, it's doing things over and over and over again and getting more comfortable with my receivers. Carlos and Sean had great games [Sunday], and Rocky did a great job on the punt. It's good to see that out of the young guys."

All six of the players are Redskins draft picks. Problem is, the team has made a habit of trading away so many of their picks (25 from 2000 to 2007) that it has become difficult for the team to build its depth chart during the draft. In the upcoming draft, the Redskins are likely to have picks in rounds 1, 5, 6 and 7 -- enabling them to abandon the high-risk world of free agency and signing bonuses.

Of the 45 Redskins active against the Panthers, only 12 were drafted by the team. By comparison, Dallas used 19 drafted players last week against Tampa Bay.

Recent draft history and roster breakdowns aren't a concern of the Redskins' young players. Getting a chance to play, producing and creating good feelings about this season and carrying momentum into 2007 is their goal for the final five games.

Campbell's outing was the epitome of the "managing the game" cliche that's repeated ad nauseam throughout the NFL. He was 11-for-23 for 118 yards.

"You always want to win," he said. "I see guys throwing for 300, 400 yards, but it's in a loss. And then are days like [Sunday] where I missed a couple throws but made a couple good throws and got the win. That makes everybody feel better."

Campbell has an 85.0 passer rating and has thrown for 314 yards in his two starts and has won the support of the locker room and coaching staff. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Campbell is only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw at least two touchdowns in each of his first two games, joining former Redskins Mark Rypien (1988) and Gus Frerotte (1994) and Cincinnati's Greg Cook (1969).

"Once the guys see you playing well and doing some things, the more and more they'll believe in you as a player," Campbell said. "[On Sunday], I felt like I had to perform in front of the home crowd and on a couple plays, I overdid it and had to get back to being myself."

Said coach Joe Gibbs: "We couldn't have asked for anything more because he's been against two tough defenses. We just hope he can keep improving because he's certainly stepped up so far. I've never seen him uncomfortable. That's the amazing thing about him. When he talks to [the media], he's the same way on the field -- laid back and never flustered."

Golston is the most unlikely of the young contributors. A sixth-round draft choice last April, Golston had only 29 tackles in 10 games for Georgia last year. He was on the roster bubble throughout training camp but made the cut ahead of veteran Cedric Killings. Golston has played in every game, starting eight, and has 31 tackles, proving that a lack of college production can be misleading.

"The more reps I get, the better I am at things," he said. "My main thing is being more consistent and taking the fundamental things like footwork and hand placement [seriously], and that allows me to see things that much faster and get in position to make more plays.

"I really didn't have any expectations coming in -- my goal was to make the team and then do whatever I could to help the team win. Hopefully, I'm cutting down on the bad plays and when I do make a bad play, it's not as bad as it was before."

Injury circumstances meant Golston didn't have to wait for his chance. McIntosh has played on defense in only one game (garbage time at Indianapolis), a mystery considering that starter Holdman isn't exactly reminding anybody of Junior Seau in his prime or even LaVar Arrington.

"So far, it's definitely been a roller-coaster kind of a year with all the ups and downs," McIntosh said. "But the important thing for me is staying focused."

McIntosh set up the Redskins' first touchdown against Carolina with a third-quarter blocked punt.

"We know teams are kicking away from [Antwaan] Randle El, so we decided to bring a block and I was able to beat my man," he said. "I played a lot of special teams in college so it's always been fun for me to feel like a top contributor."

Although the Redskins are 4-7, they face only two teams (New Orleans and New York Giants) that currently have winning records. Though a playoff berth remains remote -- the Redskins, through tiebreakers, were 13th out of 16 teams in the NFC before last night's Green Bay-Seattle game -- the chance to end the season on a positive note is definitely attainable.

"Hopefully, this is something we can build on," Campbell said. "The main thing is keeping this going week in and week out."