Hall of Fame Game Will Be a Big Test
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2004; Page D05
Less than a week remains before the Washington Redskins open their preseason schedule, leaving precious little practice time, but Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, said he is not going to tolerate too much sloppy play in the exhibition game. The Redskins will face Denver in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Monday night and Williams plans to use a very youthful lineup for that game, giving the inexperienced players the opportunity to prove they are worthy of sticking around in training camp.
The Redskins were forced into an abbreviated second session yesterday, starting about 45 minutes late because of a thunderstorm coming through Ashburn, further cutting into the prep time, and the team will hold a closed practice tonight at an undisclosed location. Most teams play four preseason games but Washington will play five times, providing ample opportunity to get a host of key offseason acquisitions acclimated with their new teammates and a new defensive scheme. The Redskins came into camp later than many teams, with Coach Joe Gibbs providing a long vacation for the players after working them hard in minicamps and spring practices. Beginning Monday night, the evaluation process will really kick in.
"We'll play a lot of those young guys in this first game, and we'll see then," Williams said. "The pressure has been on them and we've told them from June on, 'When you come back you'd better make sure you're in your playbook from the time you have off, because we're going to play in a week when you get back, and some stories are going to be told on you immediately on whether you belong or not.' So this is good; we came in as late as possible to be as fresh as possible and let's go play some games."
Williams is instituting an ultra-aggressive game plan designed to pressure and rattle opposing quarterbacks. He said he believes the team acquired the kind of fast and athletic personnel required in the last few months to complement the incumbent talent. The preseason games will provide an invaluable forum for getting key players acclimated to the various sets and personnel shifts required.
"You've got to have the right personnel to be as aggressive as we want to be," Williams said, "and we've got some pretty good personnel right now speed-wise if we stay healthy. If we have injuries then we'll have to adapt."
NFL Holds Briefing
An officiating crew led by referee Ed Hochuli addressed the players and the media on NFL rule changes yesterday afternoon at Redskins Park. The league will be watching certain infractions more closely this season and also altered how certain penalties will be assessed and interpreted.
Hochuli expects that the changes will lead to a surge in calls during the preseason but "it's our experience that by the time the regular season rolls around everyone will adjust to it."
Jacobs Is Hurt
Wide receiver Taylor Jacobs suffered an abdominal strain in the morning session and missed the afternoon practice. He is day-to-day, director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said. . . .
Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who is battling a nagging toe injury, gave the team a scare yesterday when diving for a ball in the afternoon session. The AstroTurf field was surrounded by massive puddles of water and Coles flew out of the end zone through the water and into a muddy embankment. He was slow getting up but was fine and finished practice with no problems. . . .
Safety Matt Bowen, a fifth-year veteran, said he has gained more insight into his position in his limited time with this coaching staff than he has from any staff before. This staff includes numerous assistants with experience as a head coach or coordinator, and is in stark contrast to the group assembled by previous coach Steve Spurrier, who brought in mostly college assistants from his time at the University of Florida.
"Steve Jackson, my position coach, played in the NFL for nine years," Bowen said. "You don't play nine years just hanging around; you know football. So that's been great, just being tutored by an ex-player, he tells you things that you just never looked for, like, 'Hey, when this guy does this, this is what he's going to do.' And then you get out there and he's exactly right, whether it's with the stance or the way they come out of the huddle, it's just certain things that only a player would know, and that's pretty cool." . . .
Rookie Sean Taylor again participated in practice after missing the first day of training camp with a minor knee sprain and is gradually getting up to speed. "He's taking baby steps," Williams said. "He's improved his conditioning from the last time I saw him in June. There are a lot of things coming at him, but he's a pretty smart football player. Athletically, he's gifted. Now, he needs to catch up on the learning curve and the terminology, and he's picking it up pretty fast."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company