- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer named rookie cornerback Fred Smoot the victor yesterday in one of five positional battles that lasted into the final week of the preseason.[b]Smoot will start Sunday's opener at San Diego ahead of veteran Darrell Green, who announced his retirement effective at season's end. A second-round pick out of Mississippi State, Smoot joins wide receiver Rod Gardner, a first-round pick, and undrafted right guard David Brandt to give the Redskins three rookie starters.[b]Brandt was another winner in a protracted positional contest. The others were middle linebacker Kevin Mitchell, left guard Dave Szott and free safety David Terrell. Each of the five announced starters was expected to win his position in recent days.[b]Coach Marty Schottenheimer acknowledged that there is some risk in starting Smoot, but the desire to tap the young player's potential and rapidly increase his experience was too tempting. And Redskins defenders are confident that the rookie will produce.[b]"A lot of plusses, little minuses," was the way Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey described Smoot. "He's obviously a great athlete. He knows he has to polish up technique and little things like that, but he's a great player right now."[b]Green becomes the third cornerback, a role he also held last season when Deion Sanders joined the team for a year.[b]"There will be many occasions where Darrell will step in and contribute," Schottenheimer said. "I just felt, quite frankly, that we needed to give Fred the opportunity to grow. You don't grow sitting on the bench."[b]Brandt, who played mostly center at Michigan, got his chance at right guard after Mookie Moore and Derrick Fletcher faltered in the preseason and veteran Ben Coleman missed too much time with swollen knees to be seriously considered.[b]Brandt's only start came in the preseason finale at New England. Amid the line's disastrous performance against the Patriots' blitzing 3-4 defensive front, Brandt showed promise. He had just one bad play, by Schottenheimer's count.[b]Coleman remains a candidate to overtake Brandt. Moore and Fletcher were waived during final cuts Sunday.[b]"Right now, we feel at right guard [Brandt] gives us some size and power," Schottenheimer said. "Ben has missed considerable time… . Notwithstanding the [game] experience that Ben has, David is healthier and has had far more repetitions."[b]Szott performed fairly steadily at left guard since signing Aug. 20. The longtime Kansas City Chief had a standing offer to join the club since winter but made up his mind only a few weeks ago. Szott's chief concern is his 6-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy.[b]Backing up Szott on the left side is Matt Campbell, who also is the reserve left tackle behind Chris Samuels.[b]At middle linebacker, Mitchell ran even with fellow veteran Robert Jones throughout the preseason. Settling the battle was a mildly sprained knee Jones suffered at New England. Jones did not practice yesterday and is "50-50" for Sunday, Schottenheimer said.[b]At free safety, Terrell made good progress through the preseason. He wasn't seriously challenged by veteran Keith Lyle, who was signed Aug. 22, but Schottenheimer said the competition remains open.[b]Among injuries, Samuels (back), defensive end Bruce Smith (shoulder) and Bailey (foot) are probable for Sunday.


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