Williams, Defense Are All Fired Up

Joe Gibbs collars assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams following last year's win over Detroit.
Joe Gibbs collars assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams following last year's win over Detroit. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 1, 2005

Gregg Williams's praise or admonishments -- often filled with expletives -- cut through the chilly, drizzly air yesterday during one-on-one drills in the Washington Redskins' second practice of rookie camp. Williams donned a black cap -- emblazoned with a gold "R" -- gray windbreaker and a scowl, standing near the 50-yard line while watching his defensive backs duel wide receivers.

At the 40-yard line, cornerback Carlos Rogers -- the ninth overall pick in last week's NFL draft -- matched up against wideout Tiger Jones, undrafted out of Louisville. Rogers viciously jammed Jones near the line of scrimmage, delaying the receiver's route.

"Good, it's over with!" Williams yelled as quarterback Jason Campbell's pass arrived belatedly. "If you stay on him that long [in a game], the quarterback doesn't even look at him."

But on the next play, when cornerback Demetri Patterson deflected a pass, Williams's praise for the Tuskegee rookie was also a zinger toward Rogers.

"Way to finish," Williams said loudly. "I wish Carlos would have done that yesterday."

Williams's occasionally harsh comments made it difficult to discern that Rogers has performed well in his first two NFL practices.

"It's hard for me as the old disgruntled coach to say that right off the bat," Williams said yesterday.

During Washington's offseason, Williams was conspicuously unavailable for comment. Yesterday was the first time Williams addressed the media since the end of last season when Washington finished 6-10.

"I think there should be one voice and one message," Williams explained. "And I think the fact that Coach [Joe] Gibbs is in the Hall of Fame, that when he talks everybody ought to listen."

Rogers, a 6-foot, 200-pound cornerback out of Auburn, has been able to keep up with the increased speed of NFL practices, and is expected to eventually replace Fred Smoot, who departed as a free agent to the Minnesota Vikings. The loss of Smoot compounded the departure of linebacker Antonio Pierce to the NFC rival New York Giants.

Pierce and Smoot were starters on a unit that finished ranked third in the NFL and tops in the NFC. Pierce was Washington's leading tackler, but perhaps his best quality was grasping the complicated schemes devised by Williams and properly aligning teammates before each play.

Among Washington's six draft picks are linebacker Robert McCune (fifth round, Louisville) and linebacker Jared Newberry (sixth round, Stanford). Yesterday, Williams, echoing Gibbs, warned reporters not to discount rookie linebackers from being a factor next season. During the first two rookie practices, outside linebacker Zak Keasey -- an undrafted rookie out of Princeton -- has caught the coaches' attention. Keasey played on the same unit last season with Williams's son, a cornerback.

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