At 5-foot-10 and 189 pounds, David Macklin is small even for a cornerback. And while he isn't among the most gifted NFL players, he started 79 games during his previous seven seasons because he simply outworked the competition.
Macklin already has shown that with the Washington Redskins, with whom he signed in early April. On May 24, the most recent day of organized team activities, the 28-year-old worked with the starters because both Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot were absent.
"We've got a couple of guys not here, and David steps in and we don't miss a beat," cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray raved about Macklin, who played for the Arizona Cardinals the last three seasons. "He doesn't make mental mistakes. The way David plays tells me that he's a professional who studies. He knows his role, and he knows what he has to do to get better. ... Other guys can be as talented and experienced as David, but they make a lot of mental mistakes in a new system."
That was certainly the case last season when the Redskins ranked 23rd in pass defense a year after finishing 10th. Springs missed eight starts, and fellow starting cornerback Carlos Rogers missed one. Backups Kenny Wright (now with Cleveland), Mike Rumph (St. Louis) and Ade Jimoh showed they weren't adequate replacements.
"When your third, fourth and fifth corners can't compete against No. 1 receivers, you're going to be in trouble," Gray said without naming names. "You have to start making calls to protect guys. That's really not us. Now we have guys who can come in, and we can still play at a high level. That's how we're going to get better."
Macklin, whose lack of size has led him to commit more than his share of penalties, was benched by Arizona coach Dennis Green after being beaten for a touchdown by San Francisco rookie tight end Vernon Davis in the 2006 opener. But Macklin was starting again by midseason. The Cardinals were 4-4 with Macklin in the lineup, 1-7 when he wasn't.
"I don't know what went on in Arizona, but I'm glad we've got David here," Gray said. "When you come here, you've got a clean slate."
After Arizona changed coaching staffs this winter, Macklin had hoped to sign with Kansas City. But when the Chiefs' offer was lower than he expected, Macklin looked elsewhere. For a man who set up the "27 Reasons" Foundation to help at-risk youth in Arizona and in his native Newport News, Va., the chance to play near home was worth it.
"This may not have been the best situation contractual-wise, but I couldn't be happier," said Macklin, who received just $40,000 to sign on top of the one-year veteran minimum salary. "I always dreamed about playing for the Redskins. When this door was still open, this was the place I wanted to be."
That was true even though the Redskins still have Springs and Rogers and brought back Smoot, who also was with the team from 2001 to 2004. After starting for five of his seven seasons, Macklin figures to be the No. 4 cornerback in Washington.
Macklin has played special teams, a big part of the fourth corner's role. He even blocked two punts as a freshman at Penn State. But Macklin isn't conceding a starting spot.
"I've never worried about the other corners on a team," Macklin said. "I know I'll be fine as long as I take care of my business."
Linebacker Marcus Washington, Macklin's teammate on the Indianapolis Colts from 2000 through 2003, knows he will do just that.
"David will definitely help us," Washington said. "He's a hard worker, a good corner and a good guy."
Note -- Quarterback Casey Bramlet, allocated by the Redskins to Hamburg of NFL Europa, has posted a passer rating of more than 100 the past four weeks. Bramlet, who will attend his second straight training camp this summer, leads NFL Europa in passing yards (1,331), touchdown passes (12) and passer rating (100.5).