- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Maybe Dezmon Briscoe will turn out to be another Ramzee Robinson. Remember him? (It’s OK if you don’t.) Robinson was a cornerback — a former Mr. Irrelevant, no less — who was claimed off waivers by the Washington Redskins in 2010, Mike Shanahan’s first season as coach. He was cut at the end of camp and, at last report, is still trying to find his way back into the league.

That’s how it is with these waiver-wire types. They’re the NFL equivalent of those Take One/Leave One pennies you see next to cash registers. Every once in a while, though, you stumble across a castoff who can really help you, and — who knows? — perhaps Briscoe can be that kind of player for the Redskins. There’s certainly no harm in taking a look at him, especially since he caught six touchdown passes for Tampa Bay last season (more than any Washington receiver grabbed).

Besides, the Redskins had hoped to sign a third wideout in free agency, but they couldn’t charm Eddie Royal into signing on the dotted line. Briscoe, if he works out, can be their Replacement Royal — at a fraction of the cost.

In recent years, the Redskins haven’t been terribly active on the waiver front. This is somewhat surprising, inasmuch as Shanahan is in the midst of an extreme makeover. Bruce Allen says its because “we’ve been trying to give our young guys an opportunity to learn the system” — rather than give those opportunities to pickups from other systems. Still, as talent-poor as the team has been at many positions, you’d think it would have put in a few more claims … if only to look like it was doing everything it could to get better.

Allen still cringes at the thought of the Oakland Raiders, back when he was with them, waiving a second-year defensive tackle named La'Roi Glover. Glover went on to play in six Pro Bowls with New Orleans and Dallas and had more sacks (83.5) during the span of his career (1996-2008) than any DT other than Warren Sapp (93.5).

How could the Raiders make such a colossal blunder? Well, they changed coaches that year from Mike White to our old friend Joe Bugel. That’s how a lot of these things happen. A new guy comes in, the system changes and there’s a bunch of turnover (staff included). Any time snap judgments have to be made, personnel-wise, it raises the margin of error.

The same dynamic might be at work in Tampa. Greg Schiano is a rookie coach in the NFL, and like a lot of rookie coaches he’s trying to establish his authority. In May he traded Kellen Winslow, who caught 75 passes for 763 yards a year ago, because he didn’t think the outspoken tight end was buying into his program. And now he’s let Briscoe go after Dezmon missed some voluntary workouts during the offseason and, at the start of camp, failed a conditioning test.

Schiano, it’s clear, has little tolerance for drama. But in his desire to Set the Proper Tone, he’s kicked two potential assets to the curb. We’ll find out soon enough whether these were smart decisions, whether the Bucs still can throw effectively without two of their top receivers from last season.

At any rate, the Redskins are happy to see Schiano cleaning house with such gusto — doubly so because their new secondary coach, Raheem Morris, was previously the head man in Tampa and could vouch for Briscoe as a player and person. That takes some of the guessing out of it.

“Last year, we claimed [defensive end Doug] Worthington because he came from the Pittsburgh system, which was similar to ours on defense,” Allen said. “When you’re bringing in somebody late, you want him to have some familiarity with what you’re doing, because it’s not baseball. In baseball, a second baseman can land at 3 o’clock and start for you that night. He knows how to turn a double play.”

Briscoe has plenty of makeup work to do as far as the playbook is concerned, but Morris is convinced he can fit in here. At 6-foot-3, Dezmon can give Robert Griffin III another big target in the end zone. He also can serve as Leonard Hankerson Insurance in the event the latter’s surgically repaired hip needs more time to heal. Hankerson (6-2), I’ll just remind you, is the only other wideout with much size.

It’s one of those low-risk/high-reward moves that a club would be nuts not to make.

After all, there’s no telling who the next La'Roi Glover is going to be. He’s out there. Somewhere.