- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2007

Quarterback Todd Collins will play ahead of Mark Brunell once Jason Campbell leaves tomorrow’s preseason game against Pittsburgh, Washington coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday.

Collins led the offense’s only scoring drive last week, going 5-for-5 for 56 yards in the fourth quarter of the 14-6 preseason-opening victory at Tennessee.

“Coach wants to see me play a little bit more,” Collins said. “Mark and I have been rotating in terms of reps in camp. Now it’s my turn to go in first. When I go out there, it’s not like I’m competing against another quarterback. I’m not trying to be No. 2 or 3. When you go out there, you try to be the best, make the most of your opportunity and then the coach decides what the pecking order is.”

Given that Campbell, the starter for the final seven games of 2006, is firmly No. 1, it has been assumed that the 36-year-old Brunell, a Gibbs favorite and a starter for 35 regular season and playoff games the past three years, was going to be No. 2.

The 35-year-old Collins, a favorite of offensive boss Al Saunders from their five years together in Kansas City, didn’t play as the No. 3 quarterback last year and was expected to be challenged by NFL Europa star Casey Bramlet or rookies Jordan Palmer and Sam Hollenbach for his roster spot. Instead, Bramlet and Hollenbach are gone, Palmer is looking like practice squad material and Collins is pushing Brunell.

“It was natural to wonder what your role was,” said Collins, who has thrown just 27 regular season passes since starting for Buffalo in 1997. “It’s cleared up a little bit, but it’s not really defined yet.”

Edwards impresses

Tight end Eric Edwards was out of football last season, selling life insurance back home in Louisiana.

But Edwards’ big series against Tennessee on Saturday and his consistency in practice just might win him a roster spot behind starter Chris Cooley and Todd Yoder.

With the Redskins’ offense struggling against Tennessee, the NFL’s worst-ranked defense in 2006, Collins found Edwards for three straight completions (for six, five and 29 yards) to set up the Redskins’ go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

“I can’t remember the last time I caught three straight passes in a game,” said Edwards, 27, a receiving star at Ouachita Christian High in Monroe, La. “In practice, we might take two straight reps and then we’re out. I was a little gassed. [Fortunately] the long one was the third one. What saved me was the two-minute warning.”

The 6-foot-5, 259-pound Edwards started nine games for Arizona in 2005, catching one touchdown. Edwards caught just 17 passes in his two seasons with the Cardinals and just 29 in his four years at Louisiana State.

The Redskins signed Edwards in January, knowing veterans Christian Fauria and Brian Kozlowski were likely at the end of their careers. Washington drafted tight end Tyler Ecker in the seventh round in April, but he has missed nearly three weeks with a pulled groin, leaving rookie free agent Jake Nordin as Edwards’ only healthy competition for the third tight end job.

“We almost have to have three tight ends because we run so much two-back stuff that we can’t move [former tight end] Mike Sellers from fullback,” position coach Rennie Simmons said. “Eric has good size. He runs well and he was in basically the same offense in Arizona so he hasn’t had that much of a learning curve. He’s having a good camp and those catches the other night definitely helped his case.”

Randle El returns

Receivers Antwaan Randle El (quadriceps) and Corey Bradford (hamstring) returned after missing three days apiece.

Todd Wade (shoulder) remained sidelined and won’t play against Pittsburgh. Mike Pucillo will start at left guard.

Running back Rock Cartwright (hamstring) rested for a second straight day and is doubtful for the Steelers game, as is reserve defensive end Jamaal Green (shoulder).

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