Asked to assess the development of Redskins cornerbacks after mini-camp, new defensive assistant Jerry Gray had this to say: "We still need to make a lot of progress. But I'll tell you this: My guys are giving me the effort, and they're willing to put in the time. That's what you appreciate."
When the Redskins added Gray to their defensive staff earlier this year, as secondary-cornerbacks coach, they added an experienced NFL figure who has been a blue-chip performer at every level as a player.
It's no secret that projected starters for the Redskins at corner in the upcoming season are veteran Shawn Springs and second-year pro Carlos Rogers.
Beyond that, Gray said, there's solid competition with Ade Jimoh, Kenny Wright, Dimitri Patterson and Christian Morton in the fight.
"That's what you want and that's what you at expect at this point--guys who are willing to come in compete," Gray continued. "We're not playing a game this Sunday. Still, what you need to see is a willingness to compete."
Added Gray: "Athletic ability, quickness, technique--that's what it takes to play corner. That's what we keep preaching. If you want examples from other teams, look at players like Champ Bailey, DeAngelo Hall, Deltha O'Neal."
A native of Lubbock, Tex., Gray is in the Texas High School Hall of Fame. In 1983 and 1984, he was an All America pick at safety for the Texas Longhorns. The L.A. Rams drafted him in the first round in 1985 as the 21st overall pick and Gray went on to make four Pro Bowls.
At the 1990 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Gray picked off a pass and raced 51 yards for a touchdown in a game the NFC won 27-21. He had seven tackles and was named player of the game.
Gray, Buffalo's defensive coordinator the past five seasons and a man with 18 years of NFL experience, replaces DeWayne Walker, who returned to the college ranks as UCLA's defensive coordinator.
Besides that, Gray ought to know something about Redskins history, playoff football and RFK Stadium. In his second year in the NFL, he was part of a Los Angeles team that met the Redskins in the playoffs.
In the first round of the playoffs, Los Angeles visited RFK, where Joe Gibbs and the Redskins prevailed 19-7. Gray and Rams cornerback LeRoy Irvin held Art Monk and Gary Clark in check. Monk had five catches for just 34 yards, Clark one catch for eight yards.
"RFK? It was a tough place to play, just like the Oakland Coliseum in some ways," Gray recalled. "You were always playing against a team and a crowd. I always respected the way the Redskins played the game."
With the Bills in 2004, Gray directed a defense that produced 39 turnovers, tops in the entire NFL.
In all likelihood, Gray's special project for 2006 will involve helping to develop Rogers, the Redskins' first-round selection and the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft.
"What we're trying to emphasize with Carlos and all of our young corners," said Gray, "is that you never know which play will wind up being the key play in a ballgame. The most important play in the game may actually come on the second or third snap. You never know."