A year ago, when there was an uneasy feeling about the Redskins during training camp, Jack Pardee probbly was more willing to gamble on fringe rookies.
But now, with talk of division titles filling the air and optimism dominating almost every conversation, Pardee and his coaches are looking at these players differently.
Despite the fact the current crop of first-year players is deeper and more talented than any seen here for years, there also is less patience with their mistakes and more desire to see daily progress.
"You look for something that catches your eye," Doc Urich, defensive coordinator, said. "Something has to pop up and hit you."
For such top choices as Art Monk and Mat Mendenhall, only a disastrous camp could prevent them from making the club. But for others, such as sixth-round pick Farley Bell and seventh-round choice Melvin Jones, this first week of camp -- when the majority of veterans are still at home -- may not be long enough.
"We have rookie week so we can concentrate on watching these people," Pardee said. "The next week, when the veterns come in, there are more people. We still look at the young ones, but not as much."
Bell and Jones, both of whom probably would have made the club last year, came into camp highly regarded by General Manger Bobby Beathard and his scouting staff. Bell, a defensive end from Cincinnati who is being converted to linebacker here, was touted by Beathrd as a gifted athlete with much potential. Jones, a tackle from Houston who is being tried as a guard here, was considered to be a steal by the team, a low-round-pick with high-round ability.
But in this swirling world of two-a-day workouts, constant meetings, continual criticism by coaches and nonstop thinking about football, both are struggling to not only make the adjustment from college to pro football but also from a familiar, comfortable position to a spot with uncharted pitfalls.
"I was really lost in minicamp," Bell said today, looking back at the three-day workout at Redskin Park in May. "It was the first time I really had to play nothing but linebacker and it was something. I was dropping (on pass coverage) just to drop. I had no idea about zones or anything else."
The fog has cleared slightly these early days of camp, but not enough to either get him off to a quick start or make a deep impression on his elevators. eBell knows that there is no reason for him to panic but he must begin playing better immediately.
"I'm putting more pressure on myself than I have to," he said. "You get used to people watching you. But I know I have to be better than I was on Monday. I'm trying to think too much, I'm straining too hard.
"I know I have to learn quickly. But my movement and conditioning felt better today. And it's helping to watch films every night and see how the veterans play. I'm picking things up."
If the Redskins had the luxury of waiting on Bell, he probably would be a full-fledge defensive end within a year. He already has gone from 225 to 240 pounds since his senior season and, at 6 feet 4, he probably could carry 255 pounds and still not lose his quickness.
"But we aren't in a position to wait too much on people," Beathard said. "He has to show us now that he can help at linebacker while also being a good special-teams player. I think that his work on special teams could earn him a spot, but if he can't do it at linebacker, then special terms alone wouldn't be good enough."
So how do you make a good impression, especially when Pardee spends most of every practice session with the linebackers.
"Beyond physical capabilities," Pardee said, "you look for mental toughness. That covers a lot of ground. Does he concentrte when he's tired? tDoes he make a lot of mistakes? Does he have a desire to work hard?"
Last year, 11th-round pick Monte Coleman made an impression through raw athletic ability. He could run faster and lift more weight than any other linebacker, which made it hard to cut him. Free-agent Neal Olkewicz first caught Pardee's eye with some bone-rttling tackles.
Bell, a onetime Ohio high school player of the year who began his college career at Ohio State before transferring to Cincinnati, is still searching for a similar way to get his name on Prdee's preferred-prospect list.
"I played at the same high school as Ron McDole," Bell said with a laugh. "Maybe that will give me an edge. Anything has got to help."
Jones has the kind of natural ability that brings out a challenge in coaches."He's a load," Pardee said about the 6-foot-2, 260-pound former All-Southwest Conference tackle. "He's so big and strong. It becomes a coaching goal to bring all that out."
And then Pardee gave a possible clue to Jones' future on this club. "He catches your eye," he said, "like Jeff Williams did last year."
Williams was a Redskin pet project in camp a year ago. Pardee thought he had the physical talent to become a superior guard -- if he worked hard enough. Williams did, and now is considered the team's best offensive lineman.
Since Pardee feels the Redskins need more players of Williams' ability to mold a truly great line, Jones is being watched very carefully by Ray Callahan, line coach. But he also is a college tackle trying to learn too play pro guard, and the mistakes are coming in bunches
"It's good to have the ability but if he's a half-step behind coming off the ball or if he's always offside, then that doesn't help us," Pardee said. "Then you have to move on to someone else."
Last year Washington was desperate for young linemen. But now the Redskins have young veterans in Dan Nugent, Fred Dean, Williams and Gary Anderson vying with 32-year-old Ron Saul for probably three guard positions, although Anderson also is being worked at center. And, like Bell, Jones must develop quickly while hoping older players get off to slow starts.
If nothing else, Jones already has made what should be a lasting impression on anyone who he watched workouts. He has enormous, 31-inch thighs (normal thighs are about 20 inches) and can do a squat with an impressive 560 pounds of weight.
A Kodak first-team All-American last year, Jones agreed he is struggling to sort out the new duties of guard.
"I especially have to work on my pass protection," he said."I keep wanting to revert to my college techniques. I keep going over and over it in my head at night.
"But I'm coming around. I feel better. Heck, I thought I would be drafted in the second or third round but by the time the sixth round was over, I thought, all those All-America teams were bull.
"Now I have to prove I can make this team. I think I can, but I know they won't wait for me. I have to learn quick and fast, but I'll come around."