- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Taylor getting more looks

Sean Taylor may not be ready to join the Washington Redskins’ starting defense yet, but it appears the rookie safety will get a chance to go head-to-head with some of the Miami Dolphins’ first-stringers Saturday night.

Gregg Williams, Washington’s assistant head coach for defense, said yesterday he would like to see how Taylor handles himself against top Miami receivers like speedy Chris Chambers.

“Don’t be surprised if you see him out there,” Williams said. “I may try to manipulate it so he has to go out there and get a piece of [Chambers]. It’ll be good.”

Though he has turned heads with his play in the Redskins’ first two exhibition games, Taylor continues to line up with the second-team defense in practice behind unheralded safety Andre Lott.

Taylor, the fifth pick overall in April’s draft, likely will surpass Lott on the depth chart before the start of the regular season. Williams, though, has made a point to ease the 21-year-old into the fold, making sure he earns his position.

Redskins coaches want Taylor to grow more accustomed to the speed most NFL receivers display, as well as getting a firmer grasp on the defense’s terminology.

“No one has any questions about his physical gifts,” Williams said. “He’s got to be a little more vocal with his calls. But I think even the novices see that he is pretty physically gifted. …

“As he gets more vocal — and he is — he’ll be a good player. But he’s not there yet.”

Cooley making strides

Speaking of Redskins rookies, third-round draft pick Chris Cooley has made a strong impression on the coaching staff in the last week and appears to be in line for more playing time as the preseason continues.

The 22-year-old H-back saw significant action in Saturday’s exhibition loss to Carolina and hauled in the first two receptions of his young career. Cooley, a wide-eyed youngster from Utah, couldn’t believe how easily he recorded his first catch — a 24-yarder from Mark Brunell in the second quarter.

“It felt amazing to catch a couple balls,” he said. “I was amazed at how wide open I was. I’m running down the field thinking, ‘I know the safety’s going to come over the top and kill me the second the ball gets here.’ And he never got there. So I was surprised. It worked out nice for me.”

Cooley remains part of a three-man battle at H-back with veterans Mike Sellers and Brian Kozlowski. Sellers has started both preseason games, but it appears likely coach Joe Gibbs is going to try to use all three players once the regular season starts.

That’s encouraging news for Cooley, whose presence in training camp has been overshadowed by first-round pick Taylor.

“Right now, I feel like I’m playing as hard as I can,” Cooley said. “And I feel like I’m playing really well. We’ll see how it works out. I think all of us will probably end up playing during the season.”

Crowded training room

A smorgasbord of players sat out the second of yesterday’s two practices at Redskin Park. Eighteen players watched the afternoon session from the sidelines sans pads and helmets.

Among the missing were running back Clinton Portis (thigh); offensive linemen Chris Samuels (mild concussion), Randy Thomas (knee) and Kenyatta Jones (ankle); wide receivers Rod Gardner (shoulder) and Darnerien McCants (knee, ankle); defensive linemen Cornelius Griffin (hip) and Brandon Noble (knee, hand); and linebackers LaVar Arrington (knee) and Mike Barrow (knee).

The growing number of injuries has the coaching staff concerned, but Gibbs isn’t panicking yet.

“The good thing is I don’t think any of them are serious issues,” he said. “Most of them are bumps and bruises, and hopefully they’ll bounce back for the weekend.”

Extra points

Unable to sign Adewale Ogunleye to a long-term contract, the Dolphins have begun to gauge trade interest from other NFL clubs for the Pro Bowl defensive end, according to the Miami Herald. The Redskins already have shown an interest in Ogunleye, offering Miami a first-round pick in exchange for the 26-year-old earlier this summer, according to league sources. If the Dolphins do shop around the premier pass rusher, he likely would draw a hefty asking price. …

Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot, on the rumored return of Deion Sanders from retirement: “If Mike Tyson can keep boxing, I know ‘Primetime’ can keep playing football. If he comes back and says he wants to play [nickelback], I know he can do it.”

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