- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2007

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach’s improvement was a major reason why Maryland rebounded from three years of mediocrity in 2006. So although Washington has veteran quarterbacks Jason Campbell, Mark Brunell and Todd Collins plus NFL Europa veteran Casey Bramlet and sixth-round draft choice Jordan Palmer ahead of him on the depth chart, Hollenbach believes he has a chance to be working at Redskin Park this season.

“I had been talking to the Redskins, Arizona, Jacksonville and Chicago and when they drafted Jordan. I really wasn’t going to consider signing here because I didn’t think they wanted me,” Hollenbach said yesterday after the first practice of a three-day rookie minicamp. “But coach [Al] Saunders and coach [Bill] Lazor promised me a fair shot. In the end, it really seemed like it was the best fit.

“If I can show that I know what I’m doing to where they can project that [in] a year or two I would be able to play, then I have a good shot. I think I can be the starting quarterback [some day].”

With Brunell and Collins set to turn 37 and 36 respectively during the season, the Redskins certainly could use a young quarterback behind first-year starter Campbell. Palmer, as a draft choice, has a leg up, but quarterbacks coach Lazor likes Hollenbach, who signed with Washington on Monday.

“There was a real good rise in production for Sam from his junior to his senior year, which kind of piqued our interest,” Lazor said. “When he was here [for a local player tryout on April 13], he was able to throw the ball real well and he was real coachable. Sometimes when guys are overloaded coming in here, you’ll see a little hesitancy, but Sam was willing to pull the trigger and throw the ball where it was supposed to be thrown. That tells you he has a shot to handle all this stuff mentally and transfer it onto the field.”

Like Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, Hollenbach has a NASCAR connection. Hollenbach, who will receive his mechanical engineering degree this month, has assisted Maryland professor Greg Schultz on research projects for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Veteran backs in camp

Derrick Blaylock will turn 28 in August. He has run for 820 yards and 10 touchdowns in the NFL. But the former Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets running back was on the field with all the rookie hopefuls yesterday because, like most of them, he doesn’t have a contract.

The Redskins have veteran backs Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts, Mike Sellers and Rock Cartwright under contract along with Kerry Carter, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. But Washington didn’t use any of its five draft choices on a runner although two of its nine rookie free agents — Connecticut’s Terry Caulley and Youngstown State’s Marcus Mason — are backs.

“We don’t have a lot of numbers there,” Gibbs said. “Someone will get a chance there. [But] you’re going to be hesitant to put someone in there unless you have some confidence [in them]. So we have two guys there [Blaylock and former Detroit Lions player Ran Carthon] who have some experience. You’ve got to make sure they’re smart, sharp and they can pass protect. Otherwise, you’ve got a mess.”

Blaylock and Carthon were joined by former Jets tight end Zach Hilton and ex-New Orleans kicker Kurt Smith in attending on a tryout basis. Nine veterans under contract to the Redskins were on the field including receiver Steven Harris, who was carted off during drills. Harris, who spent most of the past two seasons on the practice squad, tore the ACL in his left knee.

“I can’t believe that happened,” Gibbs lamented. “He went all last year non-stop, 100 miles an hour.”

Not even one and done

Virginia Tech punter Nic Schmitt informed the Redskins before camp opened that his football career was over. That left 87 players including Hollenbach, offensive tackle Stephon Heyer and fullback J.P. Humber of Maryland; defensive tackle Keenan Carter from Potomac (Va.) High and receiver Deyon Williams of Virginia; Howard defensive tackle Edwin Piner and end Alex Buzbee and cornerback Derek Franks of Georgetown. Williams strained a hamstring and will miss the rest of the weekend.

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