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Cooley: Likely Starter at H-Back

Chris Cooley, the Redskins' third-round draft pick last April, appears to have quickly ascended to the rank of starter. Head coach Joe Gibbs said Monday after practice that Cooley would "probably start" at H-back in Sunday's regular-season opener against Tampa Bay.

Cooley will likely share playing time with fellow H-backs-tight ends Brian Kozlowski and Mike Sellers during the game.

"We feel real comfortable playing a lot of guys there," Gibbs said.

Cooley said that he had been working with the first team offense heading into the preseason finale against Atlanta.

"Coaches said we were going to have a normal week [heading into the Atlanta preseason game], as if we were preparing for a regular season game," Cooley said. "They didn't really tell me I was starting, but in practice I played with the first team and in the game I came out with all the starters. So I pretty much figured I was starting."

Asked if he felt ready for his first NFL start, Cooley said: "I know the plays. I understand that it's a step up for the season. I'm going to take that step and get extra preparation in this week. And I'll go and play as hard as I can."

Cooley, 6-3 and 265 pounds, has impressed coaches from the get-go. At Utah State last year, Cooley caught 62 passes for 732 yards and six touchdowns. The Redskins traded up to the 81st overall pick to select him.

During the preseason, Cooley caught five passes for 69 yards. In last Friday's 27-0 win over Atlanta, Cooley caught a 10-yard pass, shed would-be tackler Keith Brooking, stiff-armed another tackler, before being pushed out of bounds at the Falcons' 5-yard line.

"Chris is in the right places all the time," Gibbs said. "I think he's kind of proven that he's a pretty good runner when he catches the ball. He bounces off people and makes things happen.

"Chris is a real bright guy who kind of fits in two or three places. He could play tight end and H-back. Those kinds of guys are valuable for us because you have to be flexible in that position."

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