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Left Chilled By Draft

"When you've got a draft that isn't starting to look so good, you're going to do whatever you can to make it look as good as possible," punter Derrick Frost said, after he was cut. (The Post)
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By Mike Wise
Sunday, August 31, 2008

If I'm Vinny Cerrato today, I really need Durant Brooks to be the next Ray Guy or Sean Landeta. Heck, I would settle for Dave Jennings. Because if Brooks, the rookie whom Cerrato surprisingly plucked in the sixth round of the NFL draft, 18 spots ahead of the now legendary Colt Brennan, doesn't at least approach numbers and performances better than his predecessor, well, Derrick Frost might turn out to be right.

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Frost, Joe Gibbs's punter for the past three seasons, was a victim of cutdown day in the NFL yesterday afternoon, one of 22 players released by Washington to make the 53-player roster limit for Thursday's opener against the New York Giants.

And while he was not the biggest name in his own locker room looking for work today (veteran offensive lineman Todd Wade got his walking papers, too) or certainly league-wide (the Bengals sent Pro Bowl guard Willie Anderson packing because he wouldn't take a pay cut and they also got rid of leading rusher Rudi Johnson), Frost arguably made the biggest noise.

"I feel like I was dealt with dishonestly," Frost told The Post's Jason La Canfora in a telephone interview yesterday. "I think we all know who made the decision, and when you've got a draft that isn't starting to look so good, you're going to do whatever you can to make it look as good as possible."

Frost essentially said Cerrato's decision to keep Brooks over him had much to do with Cerrato trying to justify that several of the 10 picks he made in April, including a pair of hyped-up wideouts, are not panning out as well as the organization hoped. That waiving a punter, a position teams seldom address in the draft, would mean more criticism for a wasted pick.

Cerrato did not want to dignify the remarks, but a team spokesman did make sure that it be known the decision to cut Frost was made by Coach Jim Zorn and Danny Smith, the special teams coach -- thereby making them the fall guys in the team's great, summer-long Fourth-and-Long Debate.

The problem with assessing draft picks in the preseason is that they have yet to play a single down that matters. So anyone deciding to turn optional, offseason workouts and training camp into a referendum on Cerrato's maiden draft as the team's general manager should remember that.

Yes, there have been some discouraging signs. Whether it's Fred "Five Alarm" Davis sleeping through a workout or Zorn calling out wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas for their lack of conditioning, it's enough to make a fan base, excited on draft day about all the attention and money spent on upgrading the passing game, to have genuine worry.

Kelly obviously showed a glimmer of great potential early on, because Clinton Portis said of him in July: "We got a find a way to get this guy on the field; he's that good." But he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 4 and his knee became swollen before he was about to make his preseason debut the other night. Kelly might miss half the season before he plays.

Thomas averaged more than 20 yards a return in the preseason, but all I remember was him meekly fielding a kickoff against Carolina a week ago. I don't want to say the kid was scared, but he did not look like he wanted to be out there on at least two plays.

When every draft pick is held onto in the NFL, it normally means the franchise did its homework around draft time. But when the incumbent punter says he got fired because the GM is trying to make his draft-day résumé look better, well, that's a little extraordinary, right? To say nothing of keeping Justin Tryon, a defensive back outplayed by a number of others.

When I first wrote about the punting competition in training camp weeks ago, several readers responded by basically saying, "Write about something other than the punters, you sorry excuse for a columnist."


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