Cooley Is Enthusiastic About New Offense

By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 29, 2008

Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley had an uneventful preseason, which is fine with him. Coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, Cooley focused on learning the intricacies of Coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast offense.

Cooley said he is confident in Zorn's plans for the offense and believes the receiving corps should thrive in the new scheme. And for Redskins fans concerned about the performance of the first-team offense in the Carolina Panthers' rout last week, everyone should just relax, Cooley said.

"I really like what Coach Zorn has done. I like what we're doing as an offense, because he's really put us in a position to make plays," said Cooley, who was unable to secure a sure first-down catch during the Redskins' 24-3 loss last night to Jacksonville. "I think one of us will build on the next person.

"As soon as a couple of us start to put things together and make some plays, it makes it harder to cover everyone else. I know this much: We're going to get a lot of chances to make plays."

Last season, Cooley caught 66 passes and established career-highs with 786 yards and eight touchdowns. This preseason, Cooley had four receptions for 41 yards. Cooley and many other veterans acknowledged the offensive starters played horribly in the Panthers' 47-3 rout on Aug. 23, "but we have a good offense," Cooley said. "We have a lot of players who could make a huge impact in this offense for our team.

"If we work to that, and we get to that point, we're going to be really tough to stop. But staying healthy, that's the huge thing. That's always a major factor, so everyone on our team has to have a starter mentality. Everyone on our team has to be able to come in and make a big play when we need them to make a big play. You never know when that's going to be."

Williams Is Welcomed

Not surprisingly, Gregg Williams, Washington's former assistant head coach-defense, was the center of attention during warmups at FedEx Field.

Many Redskins players hugged Williams, now Jacksonville's top defensive coach, and chatted with him as he stood near the Redskins' emblem at the 50-yard line. Cornerback Shawn Springs and strong safety Reed Doughty were among the first players to greet Williams as he emerged from the tunnel.

Strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin did not stop smiling as they reminisced with Williams. Middle linebacker London Fletcher, who also played under Williams when he was the head coach in Buffalo, came up from behind Williams, tapped him on the shoulder and then gave him a big hug. They had a lengthy conversation.

New defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who coached the defensive line for four seasons as part of Williams's staff, exchanged pleasantries with his former boss, too. Blache recently acknowledged he and Williams have not been close since Blache agreed to accept the job Williams still occupied before owner Daniel Snyder informed him he would be let go.

Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, shared some laughs with Williams as well.

Tryon Is Picked On

The Panthers went after rookie cornerback Justin Tryon often and beat him on several plays. A fourth-round-pick, Tryon has struggled in coverage. The Redskins have until tomorrow to cut the roster from 75 to the 53-man limit.

"The decisions we make about who stays on this team and who leaves this team, it won't be about this game, this single game," Coach Jim Zorn said. "It'll be about the overall assessment of the preseason."

Punters Get Equal Share

In the punting battle, veteran Derrick Frost averaged 45.7 yards and had a 32-yard net average on three punts. Rookie Durant Brooks also had three chances, averaging 38 yards overall with a 37-yard net average.

"I watched" the punting battle closely, Zorn said. Special teams coach Danny Smith and Zorn "are going to go look at that. The decision won't be made on one poor punt tonight or one great punt tonight."

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