By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Midway through the first round of the NFL draft yesterday, the Washington Redskins began to see their expected scenario unfold. For weeks, they had a specific linebacker in mind for their draft position, but it quickly became clear that a trade would be necessary if they were to get their player.
The target was Roger "Rocky" McIntosh, a 6-foot-2, 231-pound linebacker out of the University of Miami. He had visited the Redskins weeks ago, was a former teammate on the Hurricanes with safety Sean Taylor and had been projected by the league as one of the top six linebackers in the draft. Another consideration was that the Redskins were impressed with the 29 McIntosh scored on the Wonderlic test, the controversial aptitude test that can seriously affect a player's draft value.
The Redskins did not believe McIntosh, 23, would be available when their draft slot late in the second round arrived, and began making phone calls. A day earlier, on Friday, the club made calls to attempt to move up in the draft, but Coach Joe Gibbs said teams seemed more content to take a reserved approach, preferring to wait until draft day. Then, as the first round neared the 20th selection, the Redskins received the phone call they were hoping for.
Surprisingly, Gibbs found a willing partner in the New York Jets, which traded the third pick of the second round -- the 35th overall -- to the Redskins, who then drafted McIntosh. The price was a swap in second-round picks -- the Jets received the 53rd overall pick -- plus a sixth rounder as well as the Redskins' second-round selection in 2007.
"He can really run and he is explosive," Gibbs said. "He covers a lot of ground. You can see when he gets matched up with tight ends and backs, he does a very good job there."
If history can serve as a measure, the Redskins should not have a problem signing McIntosh. According to the NFL Players Association, 75 percent of second-round picks signed last year, for an average base salary of $234,000 per season and a guaranteed signing bonus of $1.37 million.
Gibbs said yesterday the Redskins did not try to trade up into the first round, but it was clear that they were never comfortable with the 53rd pick and intended to move up.
"Our guess was that at 53 we were in trouble," Gibbs said. "Now, we had a game plan at 53, but it didn't include Rocky."
For his part, McIntosh believed he would be a first-round pick, but according to draft experts over the past few weeks, McIntosh fell fairly in line with his projections. Gibbs said what they liked about McIntosh was both that he played at Miami, well known as a veritable factory for professional players, as well as his athleticism.
"I thought I was going to go a little higher. I guess everyone does," McIntosh said from his family's diner in South Carolina. "But they traded up to come and get me and I appreciate that."
Gibbs's fears that McIntosh would not be available at 53 were accelerated by two events yesterday. The first was that the five linebackers rated ahead of McIntosh were on their way to being drafted, the second being that two linebackers -- Alabama's DeMeco Ryans and Maryland inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson -- were selected with the first two picks of the second round. Four linebackers -- Ohio State's A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter, Florida State's Ernie Sims, and Iowa's Chad Greenway -- had already been selected in the first round.
"As soon as they started going, it kind of spurs you on. You kind of thought there was going to be a run on linebackers," Gibbs said. "We made up our minds that if it got down to the end of the first round we were going to try and move. . . . We made some calls before this just seeing if there was going to be a possibility. Most times when you call the day before, they say we'll wait until we're on the clock."
In McIntosh, Gibbs believes he has solved a central problem for the Redskins while simultaneously being able to exploit a part of their defense -- using strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington as a pass rusher -- that was underutilized last season. The problem, Gibbs said, was that the team was not comfortable with its personnel at weak-side linebacker.
Gibbs said a main target of the draft was a linebacker who could play all three downs, a luxury the Redskins did not believe they had last year, with LaVar Arrington, Chris Clemons and Warrick Holdman rotating. Arrington, who last week signed with the New York Giants, played on first and second downs, only to be spelled on third down by Clemons. Holdman played sporadically after the Redskins settled on the Arrington-Clemons rotation.
"I spent a lot of time with them when I was there," McIntosh said. "They were saying nothing but positive things about me. They showed me they really cared about me."
McIntosh played 46 games at Miami, started 26 and finished with 266 tackles and nine sacks. He played sparingly in 12 games in 2003 after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and appeared in 10 games (six starts) in 2004 because of a shoulder injury. The Redskins believe that McIntosh has the versatility to play either outside linebacker position -- strong or weak side -- as well as middle linebacker. The Redskins have had a keen interest in the weak side as Lemar Marshall impressed them last season in his first year at middle linebacker and Washington is a former Pro Bowl player on the strong side.
"Obviously a spot on our team where we were thinnest was linebacker," Gibbs said. "We had a game plan there."