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Most Improved? A Vote For Montgomery

It's an exaggeration to suggest that the distance defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery has covered in the past year is like the distance from here to eternity.

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But only a slight one.

Stately and plump, Montgomery emerged from the University of Minnesota to become a fifth-round pick of the Redskins in 2006.

As a rookie, he took all sorts of grief from Redskins coaches over his sometimes casual approach to things.

"It could get pretty rough," the 6-5, 320-pound Montgomery admitted Wednesday afternoon.

But a lot of that has changed in the past year.

With the Redskins just a few days away from their 2007 opener, Montgomery is listed as a starter opposite Cornelius Griffin at defensive tackle.

"I'd call that a major accomplishment," Montgomery said with an ear-to-ear smile. "The final depth chart isn't expected out until Friday, though, so I know I need to keep working hard."

As things now stand, Montgomery is in the conversation when you're talking about most improved Redskins heading into 2007.

With the popular Joe Salave'a having been cut, Montgomery and fellow second-year player Kedric Golston have been battling it out for the right to play next to Griffin in the opening day lineup.

As of Wednesday, the advantage was on the side of Montgomery.

The young man out of Cleveland explained it like this: "I tired to work really hard this offseason, along with Kedric. So now, it's just a matter of keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing."

Montgomery's position coach, Greg Blache, has also been his stiffest critic. But Montgomery says he now realizes that all the carping aimed at him was for the best.

"I know Coach Blache is just tryng to make me a better player. He's always on me about my technique, and I appreciate that," said Montgomery. "Last year, I had a lot to learn. This year? I wouldn't say I have it all, but it is coming to me a little faster and easier."

Montgomery's running mate at the University of Minnesota, Darrell Reid, earned a Super Bowl ring last year for Indianapolis as a reserve defensive tackle and special teamer.

Watching his buddy achieve success in the NFL was an important measuring stick for Montgomery.

"Definitely," he says. "I saw what Darrell sent through in order to make a contribution and an impact. That was an important lesson for me."

As a rookie, Montgomery saw action in five games and started once, versus Tennessee. In 2007, he hopes to establish himself as a consistent member of the Redskins' defensive front.

Last season, Montgomery saw his first NFL action on Week 3 at Houston. He came up with two tackles in his team's 31-15 win.

At the college level, Montgomery played in 45 games with 23 starts, posting 137 tackles and eight sacks. In the 2004 Music City Bowl versus Alabama, Montgomery produced five tackles and a sack.

Montgomery played defensive end, tight end and quarterback during his prep career at John F. Kennedy High School in Cleveland. He was an outstanding basketball player and an all-state baseball player in high school.

In his one start last year, versus Tennessee, Montgomery produced four tackles as well as a half-sack on the elusive Vince Young.

Things may be altered in the next few days, of course, and Montgomery may not make it as the starter for Sunday afternoon's opener against Miami at FedExField.

But if he does wind up earning the starting assignment, Anthony Montgomery officially will have turned a corner in his NFL career.

"Right now," he says, "it's like Christmas Eve. So much anticipation. In college, I knew I could pretty much always get by. It's taken me a year to learn that you can't do that in the NFL."

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