The Redskins concluded their mandatory minicamp yesterday, praising the play of cornerback Vernon Dean, the No. 2 draft choice from San Diego State.
In interviews with Coach Joe Gibbs and in casual conversations with other Redskin officials, the word on Dean was the same: he is aggressive and intelligent, and good enough to push for a starting spot immediately.
"He's going to be a heck of a player," Gibbs said. "He didn't say squat all week. He just showed a lot of talent. He's super tough."
Added Richie Petitbon, the defensive coordinator: "We've made an excellent, excellent choice. He has great football sense, great awareness. He's going to make a real contribution right away."
Dean, who was not the Redskins' preferred cornerback in the draft, had the best minicamp of any newcomer, although judgments were difficult since there was no hitting. But he appears to have the skills to upgrade the cornerback spot, especially now that Lemar Parrish has been traded.
Some observations on other top choices:
Receiver Carl Powell (No. 3, Jackson State): Powell hurt his leg early in camp, but played enough to encourage Gibbs. "He looked good; he was very alert and showed excellent speed and body control," Gibbs said. "I just don't think he ever ran these many patterns in such a short time. His legs didn't hold up." Powell remains a training-camp project, considering his lack of experience.
Defensive end Todd Liebenstein (No. 4, Nevada-Las Vegas): Coming off a knee injury, not much was expected early from Liebenstein, but the Redskins have revised their thinking. "He needs to strengthen his upper body," said Torgy Torgeson, the defensive line coach, "but he has pretty good quickness and it looks like he's going to be a good pass rusher."
Tight end Michael Williams (No. 5, Alabama A&M): Dropped a few passes but Gibbs said he wasn't concerned about it, although Williams was drafted because of his good hands. Williams also needs more experience but adds speed to the postion.
Linebacker Lemont Jeffers (No. 6, Tennessee): He needs to build himself up from 210 pounds, but has quickness and pass-coverage ability. If he can hold up against the run in training camp, he has an excellent chance to make the team.
Of the other selections, the most surprising was No. 12 Jeff Goff, a linebacker from Arkansas who is smaller than Jeffers but plays with a similar style. "You want to be lucky in that round and I think we've been just that with Jeff," said Larry Peccatiello, the linebacker coach.
Safety Ken Coffey (No. 9, Southwest Texas) drew some attention with his play before coming up lame. Wayne Sevier, the special teams' coach, was pleased with the kicking of both Dan Miller (No. 11, Miami) and free-agent punter Jeff Hayes from North Carolina.
Another free agent, receiver Charles Chisley of UDC, had a tryout and earned a contract with his minicamp performance.
Receiver Charlie Brown (No. 8, 1981), last year's minicamp sensation, once again was a standout. Another improved player was tight end Clint Didier (No. 12, 1981), who excelled in all the individual physical tests.
Mark May, a starting tackle for part of last season, also passed his first test at guard in what could be a key development along the offensive line.
Now the staff has to decide whether to release a handful of veteran players who may have difficulty making the team in training camp, including guard Ron Saul, defensive end Karl Lorch, tight end Rich Caster and linebacker Charlie Weaver. Although Gibbs denies the team has embarked on a youth movement, there is no question that many players 30 or older are facing stiff competition.
"Just off what I saw in this camp, I think we'll be a stronger team," Gibbs said. "With our schedule and all, I don't know if that means we'll have a better record. But we've upgraded our overall talent, I'm sure of that."