- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2007

Last month, Washington Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams promised schematic changes to help a pass rush that was the worst in the NFL in 2006 with 19 sacks.

Those tweaks are starting to materialize during the opening days of training camp at Redskin Park.

During a technical drill, regular defensive end Phillip Daniels moved inside to tackle with Cornelius Griffin and linebacker Marcus Washington shifted to Daniels‘ spot opposite Andre Carter.

Daniels played some defensive tackle late last season when the Redskins began experimenting with several alignments to improve their pass rush.

The biggest difference playing tackle for Daniels is how quickly the guards engage their block. Offensive tackles back-pedal in pass protection, while guards are mauler-types.

“Everything’s quicker, therefore you have to use quicker movements,” Daniels said. “The key is now you don’t have a lot of space to work with. Outside playing end, you get up the field and then you can think about what you’re going to do. At tackle, you have to have something in mind before the snap and then have a second plan. Hand work is more important because if you don’t get their hands off you, you’re pretty much done.”

Daniels had eight sacks in 2005 but only three last season, and has 56½ in his career.

Playing Washington as a defensive end would use his athleticism. He has 32½ sacks in 109 NFL games, including 14½ in three years with the Redskins. If Washington can put consistent pressure on the quarterback, that will draw attention away from Carter and Daniels.

“I like rushing the quarterback and I like blitzing,” Washington said. “I think most linebackers, when a play call comes and it’s a blitz, they start smiling because that’s what linebackers like to do. I don’t mind putting my hand down. … Coach Williams is going to have me where the action is, so I like that.”

Landry talks drag on

Although coach Joe Gibbs said, “I’m expecting it to happen any minute,” the contract talks with rookie safety LaRon Landry remained status quo according to a team source.

Landry, the sixth overall pick, has missed all three practices and is one of five top-10 picks who remain unsigned.

A potential problem for both sides is that the players selected before (Arizona’s Levi Brown) and after (Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson) Landry also remain unsigned.

In Landry’s stead, Pierson Prioleau has gotten most of the snaps with the first-team defense.

Thomas not concerned

Right guard Randy Thomas sat out both practices yesterday with right knee soreness but isn’t worried about the injury being a multi-week problem.

“Just being smart about it and taking my time,” Thomas said. “I’ll be ready for Miami [Sept. 9].”

As an established veteran, Thomas is using the same strategy Santana Moss showed during the latter part of the offseason when he sat out the mini-camp with hamstring and groin problems.

“When you’ve been around this league long enough, you learn to take care of things early so you can be productive when it counts,” Moss said. “I needed the rest and healing time. If I was stupid, I would have gone out there and tried to fight through it.”

Thomas was one of four players who sat out the afternoon practice, joining tight end Tyler Ecker (groin), linebacker H.B. Blades (cramps) and defensive end Bryant Shaw (cramps).

Brunell not available

Since Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted on federal dogfighting charges and told to stay away from training camp by commissioner Roger Goodell, reports in Georgia have mentioned Redskins back-up Mark Brunell has a possible target.

Gibbs said to his knowledge, there have been no trade talks

“I wouldn’t guess we would want to get rid of a quarterback,” Gibbs said. “We like our quarterbacks.”

Brunell was Jacksonville’s starting quarterback when Falcons coach Bobby Petrino was a Jaguars assistant for three years, and has worked with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave with the Jaguars and Redskins.

Plenty of Portis

Redskins associate head coach Al Saunders expects running back Clinton Portis to be the team’s every-down back, increasing the likelihood he will become part of the passing game.

“And he’s the guy who will run the ball in those short-yardage situations,” Saunders said. “What you’d like not to do is running back-by-committee. Clinton catches the ball and runs routes a lot better than people give him credit for. If he can be an effective receiver and route-runner, we won’t be a one-dimensional team.”