- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

MOBILE, Ala. — Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs has moved closer to filling out his staff, hiring former New York Giants defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker and perhaps completing a deal with former Redskins running back Earnest Byner.

As the rest of Gibbs’ staff and the Redskins’ personnel department attended the opening Senior Bowl practices here, Gibbs remained in Washington to work on hirings and personnel evaluations and avoided the job-seeking crush on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

NFL sources said Walker was hired as defensive backs coach, leaving recently hired Steve Jackson as assistant defensive backs coach. Two sources also said the Redskins were at least strongly considering Byner as running backs coach. One source believed Byner had been hired, as well.

Byner finished his NFL career as one of the league’s top 20 all-time rushers, and he ranks fifth on the Redskins’ career list with 3,950 yards from 1989 to 1993. He has served as director of player development for the Baltimore Ravens. Along with the Redskins and Ravens, Byner played for the Cleveland Browns.

Walker spent the past two seasons with the Giants under coach Jim Fassel and 1998 to 2000 with the New England Patriots (2000 under Bill Belichick). However, Walker’s Giants secondary did struggle in some areas, recording just 21 interceptions, including a franchise-low 10 this past season.

Gibbs hasn’t announced any hirings since his introductory news conference, preferring to release a finished list. It is believed Gibbs is seeking three other position coaches — wide receivers, defensive line and linebackers.

The Redskins have been interested in a pair of Buffalo Bills assistants, defensive line coach Tim Krumrie and linebackers coach Don Blackmon. A Bills spokesman said last night Blackmon would remain with the team; Krumrie’s future apparently remained uncertain.

Meanwhile, the countdown to the NFL Draft began in earnest yesterday. The start of Senior Bowl practices marked the first chance for Gibbs’ staff to see the prospects of college football’s premier all-star game, which will be played Saturday.

When the scouting process culminates April24, the first of two draft days, the Redskins feel they must land an impact player along the lines of linebacker LaVar Arrington or tackle Chris Samuels, the second and third picks overall in 2000.

“Today was the first day, especially for the coaches, to really see these guys,” vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said after watching practice in the afternoon. “We just have to make sure we know everything about every guy we’re interested in. We have to cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I.’ [Our pick] needs to be as productive as Chris and LaVar.”

If the Redskins hold on to the fifth pick, they are unlikely to spend it on anyone at the Senior Bowl. But Washington still must scrutinize options like Florida State running back Greg Jones, a 251-pounder who would fit into Gibbs’ offense and could be around early in the second round.

Besides running back, key positions of need for the Redskins include defensive line and tight end. If Washington stays at No.5 and takes a junior, Oklahoma defensive tackle Tommie Harris probably would be gone, but two running backs, Virginia Tech’s Thomas Jones and Oregon State’s Steven Jackson, and Miami tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. could be available.

“With the juniors, I think it will end up a pretty deep class,” Cerrato said. “The juniors are going to add to it. It’ll make it a good class.”

Besides picking fifth overall, Washington is scheduled to select in the second, third and fifth rounds. Cerrato acknowledged the nice part of having such a high top pick is that virtually every player is a potential draftee.

“You still have to do all your homework, but you’re going to pay attention and isolate more,” Cerrato said. “When you’re picking 29th or 30th, you don’t have a real good feel for who’s going to be there. When you’re picking fifth, it’s going to be between three or four guys you like at that spot.”


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