- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

In today’s Washington Times’ Redskins/NFL preview section, I wrote about the process the Redskins have used to build their current roster, relying on free agents and trades and then using the draft as way to plug the final holes on the roster. Some of the information didn’t get into the story so here is some left over material:

Pro scouting

The process is season-long for the Redskins’ personnel department - not just something that starts after the final game of the season. On the walls of VP of Football Operation Vinny Cerrato’s office is the roster of every team in the NFL. Those players who will be unrestricted free agents in 2007 are on green-colored cards, those players who will be restricted free agents are on yellow cards.

Every week, the team’s pro scouting staff, headed by Louis Riddick, watch videos of every NFL game. Each scout has a certain amount of teams he is responsible for. They will grade every player in the league and pay special attention to the free agents.

In January, Riddick and his staff finalize the list of free agents and salary cap expert Eric Schaffer also compiles a list of players who are still with their teams but may become available because of their large salaries. On Jan. 18, 2007, if the Redskins season is completed, the coaching staff will receive the free agent information. The coaches have two weeks to evaluate and grade the free agents at their position.

In early February, the scouting and coaching staffs spend four days on offensive players and four days on defensive players. Before watching a video of the first player, Riddick will present the coaches with the player’s background and injury information and the position coach will present his report.

Following three games of video, Cerrato, with a blank report in hand, will begin the discussion. After watching 5-6 players at that position, the group will rank each of the free agents in relation to the Redskins’ current depth chart. For example, during the cornerback discussion, if the five Redskins holdover corners were better than the free agents, they would not have pursed any in free agency.

The cornerback discussion last winter went from 8 a.m.-11 p.m., without a break, and a total of eight players were evaluated.

“We keep rolling the entire day,” Cerrato says. “It’s four days of grinding. Once we get our lists, and we like a guy, then we start talking about who knows somebody who knows this guy. With Brandon Lloyd, we called Dennis Erickson. If it’s a Miami guy, we check with Santana, Clinton and Sean Taylor.

“Once we have the list, we give it to [owner Dan Snyder] and tell him who we’re going after.”

College scouting

From early August through the end of the college season, Redskins college scouts - a staff headed by Scott Campbell - will attend practices and games nearly every day. On a recent midweek August afternoon, the Redskins had representatives attending six practices. Scouts are responsible for specific areas of the nation.

The Redskins grade hundreds of college players. The highest grade is 10.0 - which has never been given out. Cerrato said Reggie Bush’s 8.0 grade this year was the highest given in his time with the Redskins.

“It’s our guys doing the grades and I like that because they know what we want,” Cerrato said.

Cerrato spends Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the fall watching college football video.

The Redskins coaching staff gets involved in the college scouting at the February combine in Indianapolis.

“When we go there, the college scouts are reconfirming everything they’ve seen on film and in the games,” Cerrato said. “For the coaches, it’s their first look at the guys so it’s different. It’s the first time they get to seem doing workouts and the first time they talk to them. For one, it’s a beginning; for the others, it’s summing up their ideas.”

Cerrato said the key at the combine is not getting too high or too low on a player. He said Rocky McIntosh - whom the Redskins eventually drafted in the second round - was impressive in the interview, but myriad other factors also go into the evaluation process.

“The combine may intrigue a coach to want to take a look at a guy because he may work out great but the film shows he can’t play,” Cerrato says.

In March, the Redskins’ coaches, personnel people and scouts convene at Redskin Park for five days worth of meetings, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. each day.

Two years ago, the Redskins drafted Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers after Pacman Jones and Antrel Rolle were already chosen.

Three years ago, it was one Miami guy (safety Sean Taylor) over another Miami guy (tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr.).

“It was really close,” Cerrato said of the decision. “We watched every one of their films from their final year and every one of their films from the year before that. In the national title game against Nebraska, we watched Kellen and he was great and we watched Sean make some great plays. We all went down to the workout in Miami and then brought them here. It was a tough call.”

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