- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Included in the materials for the Washington Redskins‘ coaching, scouting and medical staffs attending the NFL scouting combine earlier this week was information about Indianapolis’ new airport and the new site of the workouts - Lucas Oil Stadium, replacing the RCA Dome and Indiana Convention Center.

“Nothing will be where it was last year,” said Redskins director of player personnel Scott Campbell, who spearheads the team’s preparation for the NFL Draft.

What remains the same is the combine serving as an event to meet with players on their radar and prepare to have players rise on the board because of great workouts.

“There are a lot of things that will be happening,” Campbell said. “Some players we’re high on already, we’re looking to confirm our feeling. Some will emerge and have great performances, and then we’ll go back and look at our [initial] evaluation.”

A year ago, Jim Zorn had been the coach for less than two weeks. Campbell was promoted to director of player personnel, and Vinny Cerrato was named front office chief in charge of personnel.

“There’s a comfort level when you have worked with someone for a year,” Campbell said. “Everybody is on the same page. With Jim, he expressed [what he wanted] when he first came here, and with [defensive coordinator] Greg Blache, it was unique last year in the sense that he was here and we already knew what he likes and the type of player that he wants.”

Speaking in generalities about the draft group, Campbell said left tackle, linebacker and cornerback have depth but running back and quarterback are thin. The Redskins hold the 13th pick.

“I thought last year was maybe thicker from top to bottom in good quality, first round through seventh round,” he said. “This year, I think it’s stronger at the top, and there’s strength at the bottom but the middle layer seems a little thinner. At some positions, the junior class has really saved the group.”

The 300-plus players attending are on a four-day schedule. Day One: orientation and X-rays; Day Two: measurements, psychological tests and media interviews; Day Three: NFLPA meeting, more psychological tests. Day Four: the workout.

Each night, there are interviews with teams.

Every team has a meeting room at the players’ hotel. They are allowed to schedule 60 interviews. In a large ballroom, players who aren’t on that list are allowed meet-and-greets with each team that has a table assigned to them. And on workout day, players can talk with position coaches at the stadium.

The structure has changed since Campbell first began working the combine in 1987.

“The kids have always stayed at the same hotel, and you used to have to fight for them,” he said. ‘You see a kid walking in and you would say, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you.’ And then a scout would camp out to make sure we brought him in. It was a complete zoo. Some teams would have a player for an hour. The Giants did their psychological test and it was three hours, so once they grabbed a kid he was done for the night.”

For the 60 interviews, the allotted time is only 15 minutes.

“You know they’re prepared and been told a lot of the questions they’ll be asked, so they’re rehearsed,” Campbell said. “But you get a feel for their personality and their intelligence and confidence. … The position coaches will be able to talk to them and be able to start to understand what they were asked to do in their college systems.”

Although Campbell wouldn’t identify the Redskins’ specific needs, their stagnant pass rush makes defensive line a priority. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, going to the Redskins at No. 13.

Getting younger and deeper along the offensive line also should be an emphasis, but the three top left tackles - Baylor’s Jason Smith, Alabama’s Andre Smith and Virginia’s Eugene Monroe - could be gone by the time the Redskins pick.

Monroe is one of several local college players at the combine.

Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is a projected late first-round pick but could increase his stock with a good workout. Penn State’s Derrick Williams, who attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, is expected to go in the second or third round, and Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis is at the combine three years after his brother, Vernon, used the event to propel himself into the top five.

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