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More than just an exhibition
For Kedric Golston, it's an opportunity to nudge ahead in a position battle. For Marcus Mason, it is a chance to play in a nationally televised game.
Sure, plenty of the Washington Redskins' key players will miss their preseason opener Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. But this represents more than a meaningless exhibition for many of the players who do take the field.
It's a chance to make a first game-time impression on the new coaching staff.
"It is going to be fun, but there are going to be some errors," coach Jim Zorn said. "There will be some things that don't really resemble anything - I already know that. All I want is whatever they do, do it at full speed and with enthusiasm and then come back and learn from it."
Golston, a sixth-round pick in 2006, started 13 games in his first season. But the Redskins also drafted another defensive tackle that year, 43 spots in front of Golston.
While Golston adapted to the NFL quicker, Anthony Montgomery caught up in Year 2. Montgomery overtook Golston for the spot next to veteran Cornelius Griffin in 2007, starting 15 games and the team's playoff loss at Seattle.
Most pundits awarded the position to Montgomery entering this season, but defensive coordinator Greg Blache declared it an open competition last week. He said Golston played so well in Seattle that he may have earned a start the next week in Dallas had the Redskins prevailed.
"Honestly, to me it has been almost a day-to-day thing with Anthony and Kedric," first-year defensive line coach John Palermo said. "They've both done well. Obviously Kedric has had the advantage with more practices. The chemistry is good with both of them. It is just going to come down to who is playing the best."
Could it be a motivational ploy for Montgomery, who is out with a broken hand? Absolutely, but this game in Canton, Ohio, still represents a chance for Golston to state his case for the job.
Regardless of who lines up for the first snap every game, both third-year players should see plenty of action. The grind in the trenches makes depth on the defensive line a necessary commodity.
"I wasn't frustrated [last year]. I was just trying to help the team win some games," Golston said. "The one thing about playing defensive line is the more you've got, the more we all play. Anthony is a good friend of mine, and so is [Griffin]. We push each other, and we all want to go out there and see all of us get a piece of the action."
Mason also has an opportunity for more playing time against the Colts. Because a thigh injury has slowed Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis has the night off, Mason and Rock Cartwright will share the bulk of the rushing attempts.
"This is a great opportunity for me because I am in a backfield with a bunch of talent, a bunch of veterans," Mason said. "I'm the youngest guy. I want to get playing time, and when I do I have to take advantage of it."
Last season, Mason was the local interest story. He was the player from Georgetown Prep trying to make the team for which he grew up cheering.
An undrafted free agent from Youngstown State, Mason was on the 53-man roster for the season opener before joining the practice squad for the rest of the year. Now Mason wants to carve out a football career.
"It was fun last year," Mason said. "After growing up here then playing for your home team, coming to camp and being star-struck by all the great veterans you use to watch on TV. Now I am just out here trying to get a spot. I want to do better than the practice squad."
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