- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2001

After overhauling the roster this offseason, the Washington Redskins are just about configured to enter training camp.

Coach Marty Schottenheimer yesterday labeled running back where the club needs a backup to replace Skip Hicks "the one position at this juncture that is still unsettled." A 14-day stretch of offseason practices ends today, marking the last team activities until camp begins July 29 in Carlisle, Pa.

The Redskins entered the post-June 1 period of free agency looking to address five positions: middle linebacker, tackle, guard, safety and running back. Yesterday's official acquisitions of linebacker Robert Jones and offensive lineman Ben Coleman addressed the first three needs, and Schottenheimer this week decided to hold off signing a safety until he sees how several youngsters perform in camp.

At running back, the club will select a free agent from a pool that includes former Atlanta Falcon Byron Hanspard and former San Diego Charger Robert Chancey, both of whom worked out yesterday, and former Kansas City Chief Greg Hill, who attended a Redskins minicamp earlier this spring. Neither Hanspard nor Hill played last season.

For now Schottenheimer is confident about his offensive line, particularly after cutting last year's starting guards and several backups before March 2 to become cap-compliant. He also feels better about his linebacking corps, which might rank among the NFL's better groups if Shawn Barber and LaVar Arrington make anticipated improvements.

"We have moved, I think, very methodically through the process of becoming cap-compliant, making personnel adjustments relative to that," Schottenheimer said. "A lot of our choices were driven by the salary cap thing. But I'm very, very pleased with the progress we've made."

Coleman, 30, pairs with recent free agent signee Matt Campbell to give Washington two versatile offensive linemen who can start at guard or back up Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen at tackle.

Coleman started 16 games at left tackle for the Chargers last season, while Campbell started 14 at left guard for the Carolina Panthers. They will work at right guard and left guard, respectively, and compete for starting roles against young Derrick Fletcher and Mookie Moore, the current first-stringers.

Schottenheimer called the versatility of Coleman and Campbell "a nice plus" but said it was not the main reason for their signings. He added that he isn't worried about letting them start at guard when he might need them as backup tackles, saying, "The five best offensive linemen we have are going to play. That's an absolute."

Meanwhile, the camp competition between Jones, 31, and Kevin Mitchell will reveal the best veteran to pair with Barber, a speedy fourth-year player on the weak side, and Arrington, last year's second overall pick who mans the strong side and has looked physically dominant in recent weeks.

Schottenheimer declined to speculate on the corps' potential, but Barber anticipates time on the highlight reel, saying, "I definitely think we have all the tools to be one of the best [corps] in the league this year."

Arrington has the most room for improvement following an inconsistent rookie year that began with missed offseason work and a second-string role. But Barber might turn the corner as he becomes a veteran in terms of play recognition.

"I'm going to be able to recognize play-action passes, different blocking schemes, different formations, where offenses are going to attack you and where the weakness of the defense is what you overplay and what you're giving up," Barber said. "Each year I get older, it's less learning on the field. Now my learning is in the classroom. Once I get on the field, I can react to what's going on."

Notes Pro Bowl kick returner Michael Bates also worked out yesterday… .

Jones and Coleman signed one-year deals, according to league sources. Jones' was worth $575,000, including a $75,000 signing bonus, while Coleman's came to about $1 million. Rookie defensive tackle Mario Monds, who signed a three-year deal this week, received a signing bonus of $59,000… .

Undrafted rookie linebacker Cornelius Anthony has impressed in practices. Said Schottenheimer: "I think he's got an opportunity, if he performs in pads like he does in shorts, to make our football team." …

Receiver Michael Westbrook was excused from practice. Cornerback Darrell Green was excused for a second straight day.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide