The Redskins' 2005 draft appears to have been a mix of filling needs, pursuing the best athletes available and keeping an eye on special teams. Beyond that, the stamp of Joe Gibbs seems to be particularly branded on the entire process. All six of the team's 2005 selections are Gibbs' types--good players of high character.
Redskins coaches and scouts looked coast-to-coach. From Auburn to Los Angeles, Louisville to Northern California and South Carolina. And one of the aims no doubt was to draft young players who bring football skills as well as solid reputations.
When it was over late Sunday afternoon, Gibbs said this: "We think we've found some excellent Redskins."
Clearly, the Redskins got their man with the ninth pick. As soon as Fred Smoot departed for Minnesota, cornerback was their biggest need. Tops on their draft board at the position was Rogers, not "Pac-Man" Jones or Antrel Rolle. After Tennessee selected West Virginia's Jones at No. 6 and Arizona selected Rolle at No. 8, the way was clear for the Redskins to pick Rogers--although Mike Williams of USC must have been enticing.
In Rogers, the Redskins chose a player who comes out of a nationally-prominent program and who, at 5-11 and 199 pounds, has cover skills, tackling abilities and special teams experience.
The 2004 Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back has the potential to develop into a solid tackler at the NFL level, something that was never Smoot's forte. Remember that when he came out of Missisippi State on the second round (45th overall) in 2001, Smoot went 5-11 and weighed 172. Rogers, therefore, is significantly bigger already.
In all likelihood, it will be a situation in which Rogers is brought along slowly by Gregg Williams. Last year's prize rookie, Sean Taylor, did not start until the third week of 2004. Rogers could go a long way before he could find a better mentor than Walt Harris, a 10-year NFL veteran and an exceptionally solid citizen. Both are from Georgia--Harris from LaGrange and Rogers from Augusta.
Harris and (more obviously) Shawn Springs are coming off solid seasons for the Redskins. It's also true that both have experienced injuries in recent years and so it may be beyond wishful thinking for the Redskins to assume that they can count on 16 games from both of their veteran corners.
That's why Rogers is so important. He says he grew up watching and admiring the skills of former Redskin Champ Bailey. Like Smoot, he has a sense of humor. Asked what was the highlight of his pre-draft visit to Redskin Park, Rogers went on and on about his sumptuous steak dinner.
Sure, he was voted the top defensive back in the country. But two other things also stand out about Rogers: 1) At Auburn, they basically considered him a coach on the field. 2) He understands the importance of special teams play. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville once said Rogers has the endurance of Lance Armstrong.
Gibbs, who visited Auburn with several Redskins coaches last week, said the team felt a pack of solid players was left on the board at No. 25. The Redskins opted for Auburn's Jason Campbell, Gibbs said, taking the position that quarterbacks are the foundation of any NFL organization and that when an outstanding one is available, you had better not dawdle.
Campbell led Auburn to perfect season last year and was a star high school quarterback at Taylorsville High in Mississippi. He says he likes to get out of the pocket and make throws down the field, putting pressure on a defense from all angles. Foremost, Campbell is enamored of the way Randall Cunningham played the game.
On Saturday afternoon, Gibbs was in a position of discussing Campbell's talents while at the same time asserting that Patrick Ramsey is the quarterback, as Gibbs put it, "to take the Redskins to the Promised Land." He meant, of course, the playoffs. Just about simultaneously, Jon Jansen, functioning as an ESPN draft analyst, was telling a national TV audience that the Redskins are "Patrick's team."
Before assuming that a Ramsey-Campbell storyline may have a long shelf life, consider that Gibbs has coached 221 games in his 13 years with the Redskins. A rookie quarterback has been the Redskins' starter in just 11 of those games.
Gibbs was asked, on Saturday afternoon, about his team's offseason, which has been a rather turbulent one at times. He responded by saying that all teams in the NFL have their problems and that how you deal with them is what counts.
People, competition and money, he said, in lament, can become a difficult mix.
With the character issues perhaps in mind, a common thread for the Redskins' draft class of 2005 is that integrity and reputation are not to be overlooked. On balance, all of the Redskins' drafted players would appear to be solid young men who are appreciative of the opportunity ahead of them. They all sound like well-grounded young athletes of high caliber in terms of their deportment.
- Campbell said he felt "blessed" to be given a chance with the Redskins.
- UCLA running back Manuel White--the Redskins' fourth-round pick at No. 120 overall and an Eddie George devotee in terms of style of play--was on his way to church early Sunday morning when contacted by team officials.
- Louisville linebacker Robert McCune--Washington's fifth-round selection, No. 154 overal--served three years in the U.S. Army and completed tours of duty in Korea and Kuwait following high school.
- Stanford linebacker Jared Newberry (the Redskins' sixth-rounder, at No. 183 overall) was a prep school choir member. At DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Newberry was a National Merit and Urban League Scholarship recipient.
Joked Gibbs: "He may be too smart for us to coach."
- Running back Nehemiah Broughton, Jr., the seventh-rounder and 222nd pick overall, comes to the Redskins from a demanding locale, The Citadel.
An emphasis on special teams appears to be one of the subplots. Regarding their capabilities as NFL special teams, Rogers loved playing on teams at Auburn; White played on just about all of UCLA's teams; McCune was named Louisville Special Teams player of the year as a freshman in 2000; and Newberry and Broughton come assembled with special teams potential.
Rogers and Campbell are expected at Redskin Park on Monday, symbolizing, in a way, the start of the Redskins' 2005 campaign. To kick things off with a pair of players who are coming off a season of 13-0 is not a bad place to begin.