Rookies Hold Their Own In Hall of Fame Game

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Washington Redskins gave their draft picks a significant role in the preseason opener Sunday night, and for the most part all responded favorably in a 30-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game. Coach Jim Zorn praised several of the rookies during his news conference yesterday upon returning from Canton, Ohio, and said he hopes they can continue their progress when the Buffalo Bills visit FedEx Field on Saturday.

Washington drafted 10 players in April, and all but second-round picks Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, both out with injuries, participated on Sunday.

Punter Durant Brooks (sixth round) was solid if unspectacular; defensive end Rob Jackson (seventh round) had a sack; safety Chris Horton (seventh round) had two sacks and recovered an onside kick attempt on the opening kickoff; offensive lineman Chad Rinehart (third round) was strong at both guard and tackle; and quarterback Colt Brennan (sixth round) made several big plays but also took more gambles than Zorn would have liked.

Brennan went 9 of 10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns, but after reviewing film of the game, Zorn said he wants to see fewer passes up for grabs. "He has to become a more disciplined QB and not risk as much as he risked in the game," Zorn said while praising Brennan's exuberance and flair.

Like Brennan, the other youngsters experienced peaks and valleys. Jackson was drawn offside and susceptible to the run. Horton was an obvious standout at times, and tight end Fred Davis (second round) was credited for playing tough and quickly turning upfield after his receptions.

"I was very pleased with the way [Davis] handled some things one-on-one," said Zorn, who had watched the offensive film twice but the defensive film only once before addressing reporters.

Brooks did not appear overwhelmed with the pressure. "There were no shanks, which I was happy about," Zorn said. Rinehart may have been the best of the bunch, filling in at two positions after the Redskins lost tackles Todd Wade and Stephon Heyer to minor injuries.

Rinehart "will be a factor this year with a guy who can play both" tackle and guard, Zorn said. "We wish we could keep him at one, but for a rookie to come in and be able to play both those positions and do decently, we're pretty excited about that."

Special Teams Ready

Zorn said he was caught by surprise when the Colts opened the game with an onside kick, but the special teams unit was not. After the game, special teams coach Danny Smith told Zorn he had prepared his units for that possibility, knowing the Colts had attempted an onside kick in the same situation against another rookie coach.

Zorn, who knows Smith well dating from their time together on Detroit's staff, thanked him. The Redskins reacted well to the short kick, with Horton pouncing on the loose ball after special teams stalwart Khary Campbell failed to secure it initially.

"He got his guys ready for that particular possibility, and it happened," Zorn said. "I had nothing to do with that preparation. I did not warn Danny, 'Hey, I'm a rookie head coach, they may do this to me.' I'm ready to call plays."

Learning the Colors

Zorn, who drew some criticism for incorrectly referring to the Redskins' colors as "maroon and black" during his introductory news conference in February, made a point of inserting "burgundy" into his remarks yesterday when commenting on the immense fan presence in Canton for Hall of Fame weekend.

"It was like having a home game," Zorn said. "There was a lot of burgundy in the audience." . . .

Under former coach Joe Gibbs, the team would issue a raft of awards after victories, with several players getting parking spots near the entrance to Redskins Park as well. Zorn said the club will be much more judicious about the process now, having one award for offense, defense and special teams, and shuffling the parking spaces each week.

"We won't be enshrining them for having one good game," Zorn said. . . .

The Redskins signed safety Patrick Ghee and fullback-tight end Pete Schmitt and released safety Stuart Schweigert and linebacker Danny Verdun-Wheeler. Schweigert had been competing for a spot at backup safety.

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