By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Despite shaky preseason play by some of their draft picks, the Washington Redskins kept all 10 of them when they made final cuts yesterday, prompting one of the released veterans to say he was cut so the front office could "look as good as possible."
Punter Derrick Frost, who struggled at times last season but kicked well in the preseason, implied the decision to keep rookie Durant Brooks was made to bolster Vinny Cerrato, Washington's first-year executive vice president of football operations.
"I feel like I was dealt with dishonestly," Frost said. "I want to thank [special teams coach] Danny Smith for the three years he gave me here, and I feel like he always treated me well, and I will continue to think that. But 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."
The Redskins, informed of Frost's comments, declined to respond to them specifically, releasing only a general statement from Cerrato.
"We appreciate all the effort and hard work that these players gave to us during the offseason program and the preseason," the statement read. "These final cuts are always a very difficult decision because we had a lot of quality football players in our training camp. . . . We hope the opportunity presents itself to enable us to sign a number of these players to our practice squad."
Shortly after being released, Frost was contacted by other teams and has a tryout scheduled Tuesday with the Seattle Seahawks.
The biggest surprise was the decision to keep only five wide receivers after Coach Jim Zorn said he does not expect the two rookies at the position to contribute because of the complexities of the Redskins' version of the West Coast offense and the learning curve of rookies.
Malcolm Kelly, whose knee injury has been such a concern that the team has considered putting him on season-ending injured reserve, and Devin Thomas, who struggled in three preseason games, are the only backups when the team goes to three-receiver sets, which it figures to do often. The duo also incurred Zorn's wrath because of poor performance in a conditioning drill early in camp.
Veteran offensive lineman Todd Wade and young running back Marcus Mason also did not make the cut to 53 players, but cornerback Justin Tryon, a fourth-round pick who was ineffective in pass coverage throughout the preseason, is on the team as the Redskins today begin practice to kick off the NFL's schedule Thursday in a nationally televised game at the New York Giants. Tryon was beaten repeatedly for long gains and touchdowns in Thursday's 24-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedEx Field.
Wade started 10 games last season at right tackle after Jon Jansen broke his leg in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins. But Wade, beginning his ninth season in the league, suffered a high-ankle sprain in the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame Game and has not practiced since.
As for Mason, a standout at Georgetown Prep, he led the Redskins in preseason rushing. But the team has top back Clinton Portis, productive reserve Ladell Betts, and Rock Cartwright, a standout on special teams. Mason's pass blocking was not up to NFL standards for a running back, said a coach who studied tape of the Redskins' preseason games, and he made mistakes on special teams.
Washington also cut wide receiver Billy McMullen, who led the team in receiving in the preseason and was among the players coaches often praised. Cornerback Byron Westbrook, whose brother, Brian, is a Pro Bowl running back with the Philadelphia Eagles, did not make it after he was on the practice squad for the 2007 season.
Overall, Frost had a 45.5-yard average on 15 preseason punts. His longest punt was 65 yards, and four times he pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line. Brooks had a 42.8-yard average on 13 punts, and five of his punts were downed inside the 20.
The Redskins offered Frost, a free agent in the offseason, only a veteran minimum contract to re-sign. Then they made the unusual move of drafting a punter, selecting Brooks of Georgia Tech in the sixth round with the 168th overall pick.
Brooks won the Ray Guy Award as college football's top punter last season. He had a 40.6-yard net average as a senior. Frost had a 36.4-yard net average for the Redskins in 2007.
Teams rarely expend draft picks on punters, and NFL punters typically take time to develop. The Redskins last drafted a punter in 1993, selecting Ed Bunn of Texas-El Paso with the second of their two third-round picks. Bunn did not make the team.
Frost, who hopes to catch on with another team, loves living in this area, he said, and plans to make his home here even if he signs with another NFL club. He was not given any reasoning for the decision but said he hopes to keep ties to many in the organization.
"I was given no explanation by anyone," Frost said. "They kept trying to tell me that it was close, that it was close and that it was an open competition, but I don't feel that was really the case."