- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2009

Justin Tryon hit the NFL crowing.

On draft day 2008, Washington’s fourth-round pick from Arizona State proclaimed he was going to start at cornerback for the Redskins. And he added that he would return every kickoff he handled at least to midfield.

Then reality struck. Hard.

In the preseason opener against Indianapolis, the unknown Onrea Jones toasted Tryon for a 30-yard touchdown catch, and Tryon was later victimized on a 47-yard pass that set up a field goal. Tryon’s preseason didn’t end any better: He was beaten for a pair of touchdowns against Jacksonville and averaged a pedestrian 20.0 yards on kickoff returns.

“I was just too tense last year,” Tryon said. “After the Indy game, I didn’t get down on myself. I knew I was better than that. I didn’t come that far to give up after one game.”

Tryon only made the 53-man roster because he was a draft pick and because none of the other young corners in camp distinguished themselves. He saw so little time on defense during the season that he didn’t have one tackle, although he did make four on special teams.

“I learned a lot last year,” said Tryon, who was the Redskins’ fifth cornerback. “These guys in the NFL humble you every day. This camp has been much better for me because I’m more relaxed. I know what to expect, where I fit within the defense.”

Tryon apparently has learned from the team’s more experienced cornerbacks. He starred during the first few days of camp, constantly thwarting quarterback and receivers. And during Saturday’s scrimmage, the 25-year-old made a fine interception of starting quarterback Jason Campbell’s pass intended for Antwaan Randle El.

Coach Jim Zorn called the interception “a great play,” crediting Tryon for reading Randle El well and breaking on the ball at the right moment. Carlos Rogers said the change in his understudy from last year has been dramatic.

“Tryon’s a much better player,” Rogers said. “I tell him that every day. As corners, you can’t hide. Quarterbacks [are] gonna find you. This league’s gonna humble you. He got humbled. It’s day and night now. He’s making plays. Even when guys catch balls on him, he’s right in their hip pockets. He’s doing real good this camp, making a big statement.”

The Redskins chose Maryland cornerback Kevin Barnes in the third round of April’s draft - 44 picks higher than they had selected Tryon. After 11 days, Tryon seems closer to pushing Fred Smoot to be the No. 3 corner than losing his No. 4 spot to Barnes.

Cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said Tryon is the same player whom the Redskins drafted. The difference is that he’s smarter.

“Justin is understanding more,” Gray said. “He had the same talent [last summer], but if you don’t know what you’re actually doing, you can’t do it full-speed. He’s not thinking about what defense we’re calling. He’s saying, ‘OK. How can I go out and beat this guy?’ If you’re thinking, receivers will kill you in this league.”

Tryon just wants the chance to go against those receivers when it counts - and show how far he has come starting with Thursday’s preseason opener at Baltimore.

“It’s nice to make that pick during the scrimmage, but I want to make those plays during a game,” he said. “I expect to have a big impact on special teams this year and learn as much as I can from Jerry Gray and [the veteran corners].

“I expect it will be a whole lot better than last year. I’m looking forward to a good showing.”

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