- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 5, 2006

Kenny Wright has it all mapped out: play a few more seasons at cornerback and then, as his NFL career reaches a second decade, move to safety.

“I played safety a little bit in college,” he said. “So once I get to my 10th year, I’ll go back there and see what I can do.”

First up, though, is Year 8 and his job as the third cornerback for the Washington Redskins. Signed as a free agent in April, Wright takes over for Walt Harris behind starters Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers.

A full-time starter as a rookie in Minnesota and last year with Jacksonville, Wright seems like an ideal fit for the Redskins: A veteran who has starting experience and a handle on what being a complementary player is all about.

Not that he should expect to watch from the sideline.

‘He’s like a starter for us, and that’s what we’ve told him,” cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said. “He won’t be on the sideline a lot. If we have 1,000 plays this season, he’ll play 600 to 700, and those are starter numbers.”

The NFC East is heavy in talented receivers and tight ends, so Wright could go against names like Toomer, Burress, Shockey, Glenn, Witten, Gaffney and, of course, Owens, this season. And the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are liable to run three-receiver sets on any down.

Wright is used to facing heavy passing teams. He spent the last six years in the AFC South, where the Indianapolis Colts dominated with a prolific passing game.

“It’s like run and gun on offense around the league now,” he said. “You need three or four starting-caliber corners in this league.”

Wright has spent time as a No. 2 and No. 3 cornerback since being drafted in the fourth round out of Northwestern (La.) State in 1999. As a rookie, he started 11 games for a Vikings team that went 10-6 and reached the second round of the playoffs. For the next five seasons, two with Minnesota and three with Houston, Wright missed only two games but started only 20.

Last season with Jacksonville, Wright started all 16 regular-season games (and one playoff game), recording 64 tackles for the 12-5 Jaguars.

“Kenny did everything we asked of him,” Jacksonville secondary coach Dave Campo said. “He came in here and competed like a son of a gun. I love the kid. He worked extremely hard, and we had 12 wins with him in there.”

Wright and the Jaguars discussed a new contract before Jacksonville gave free agent Brian Williams a $10million signing bonus, leaving Wright to find a new home. His representative spoke with the Giants, Arizona, Green Bay and Atlanta before signing a one-year, $1million deal with the Redskins on April 3.

“I’ve started in Minnesota and Jacksonville, and now it’s all about winning,” said Wright, who for his career has six interceptions and three sacks in 110 games. He says playing the third cornerback spot is all about preparation.

“As a young player, it was an adjustment, but since I’ve been in that role before, I know being a No.3 is important because you’re coming in on third down, the most important down of the series because you want to get your defense off the field,” Wright said. “You have to be focused and you have to watch the game — the receiver splits, the routes they’re running and then remember your film work.

“To me, being the No.3 cornerback is exciting because when you’re in the game, you know they’re going to pass and will probably come at you. You have to be ready.”

Said Gray: “He’s a veteran guy who says he doesn’t need every snap to be ready to play, and that’s what you look for. The faster guys can understand that, the better they become. He knows how to study and still get the best results even though he’s not playing all of the snaps. … We’re not going to play a lot of two-corner packages. If Kenny can make plays, he’ll be on the field.”

Wright’s first real chance to prove himself as a Redskin comes in today’s scrimmage against Baltimore at FedEx Field.

“He’s proving to be just what he’s been,” safety Pierson Prioleau said. “He’s a veteran player, has starting experience, has a lot of reps under his belt and it shows. He’s comfortable with a new defense and learning fast. He’ll do a lot for us out there this year.”

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