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In Indy, It's Combine Time For Redskins

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The Redskins' college player evaluation process continues in earnest this week as more than 330 NFL prospects work out at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Like most teams, the Redskins are sending a legion of coaches and scouts to the combine, including head coach Jim Zorn, executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato and director of player personnel Scott Campbell.

The combine runs from Feb. 18-24.

It's the next step in the Redskins' evaluation process that began during the 2008 college football season and continued with the Senior Bowl in late January.

Cerrato has been attending the NFL Scouting Combine for nearly two decades.

The process has changed little in that time, he said.

Every prospect is weighed and measured. Each undergoes a physical examination by all 32 team athletic trainers and physicians who evaluate how well they have healed from various injuries during college.

Teams also conduct 15-minute interviews--call it a job interview, NFL style--to evaluate personality and intelligence of players. In recent years, the Redskins have put a high priority on this part of the process.

"Basically, players are there for three days," Cerrato said. "You get the psychological testing and the physical testing."

The workouts often generate the most buzz, especially for those players who run an exceptionally fast 40-yard time.

The Redskins pay more attention to "functional" ability as opposed to how fast a player runs or how much he bench presses in the weight room.

"A guy may not bench press strong, but he has great leverage and great natural strength that translates into football," Cerrato said. "For example, Chris Horton wasn't the fastest guy in the world, but functionally he played well on the field. Functional things are more important than track times.

"You have to correlate it. You have to be able to play fast on the field and strong on the field. You could bench 500 pounds, but on the field you could get knocked all over the place."

Speed can matter more when it comes to wide receiver and cornerback positions, Cerrato said.

"If you're a corner and you run a 4.7, you can't cover a receiver who runs a 4.4," he explained. "So there are certain parameters for a position that you do need to have to play at this level.

"If you're a defense that plays a lot of man to man [coverage] like we do, then you need a cornerback that can run and cover. If you're a defense that plays a Cover 2 scheme, then you can get away with a cornerback who doesn't run as well. There are a lot of variables that go into it."

The combine is also a time when teams begin to float disinformation about who they intend to pick in the draft. Coaches and scouts are as secretive as possible in player evaluations.

"The measurables aren't really secretive [among the NFL teams]," Campbell said. "What is secretive is how coaches and scouts evaluate a player and how he may rank with others in comparison."

Just like previous years, Redskins coaches and scouts evaluate players and then pull their collective thoughts together for a final grade.

Here's a rundown of some of the drills that players must complete during the combine.

-- Vertical Jump:The player stands flat-footed and must jump straight up and hit as many plastic flags above him as he can. This drill tests leg quickness.

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Fred Davis at the 2008 combine

-- Short Shuttle:The player is in a three-point stance and shifts five yards to his left and then five yards to his right. This drill tests lateral quickness.

-- Long Shuttle:The player runs five yards back and forth, then 10 yards, then 15 yards, touching each yard marker. This drill tests speed and endurance.

-- 40-Yard Dash:The player runs 40 yards as fast as he can. This drill tests pure speed.

The 40-yard dash is perhaps the most hyped event of the combine process.

It is in these drills that combine legends are made. Every year, it seems, there are players who rise up the draft board after impressive combine workouts.

Last year, Devin Thomas impressed with a fast time in the 40 and was projected as a first round pick. He ended up as the Redskins' top selection, at No. 34 overall in the second round.

In 2005, Carlos Rogers solidified himself as a first-round draft pick with a strong showing at the combine. He was the Redskins' pick in the first round, ninth overall.

Most players have been working with personal trainers and independent position coaches to fine-tune their skills the last several weeks.

In the April 25-26 NFL Draft, the Redskins have a first-round pick (13th overall), a third-round pick, a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.

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