When the Redskins scrimmaged the Baltimore Colts here a year ago, Washington cornerback LeCharls McDaniel was a standout, but for all the wrong reasons.
"Bert Jones picked on me from the very start," McDaniel said today. "He couldn't wait to throw passes in my direction."
Jones probably didn't know McDaniel was a rookie free agent from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. But he certainly could see that McDaniel was among the smallest players on the field, a 5-foot-9, 169-pound cornerback trying to keep up with players such as Roger Carr and Raymond Butler.
Saturday, when the teams meet again, at 2 p.m. here, Jones won't be around, having been traded to Los Angeles in the off season. Too bad, because Jones might be surprised at what a difference 12 months have made.
McDaniel no longer is, as Defensive Coordinator Richie Petitbon said, "horrible." There hasn't been a better defensive player so far in this training camp.
Yet McDaniel's journey toward a spot on the final roster has just begun. He has proven he can cover his teammates. Now he must show Petitbon, who doubles as secondary coach, that he can handle opponents as well.
That's the importance of Saturday's exercise, not only to McDaniel, but also to other young Redskins who have caught the attention of their coaches.
"In a case like LeCharls," Petitbon said, "you want to see if he can keep up his good work. He's ready for the next stage, but the scrimmages and preseason games are so very important for him. They are crucial, because right now he has an excellent chance of making our football team."
McDaniel had a brief stay with the Redskins last season after a standout small-college career. Injuries in the secondary allowed him to survive training camp, but he was cut after the opener. He was recalled for the final five games when the team once again found itself short at cornerback. And that's where it appeared his Redskin career would end.
But McDaniel had become infatuated with life in the big leagues and wanted to stay. So in the off season he lived near Redskin Park and worked diligently strengthening his body and learning the nuances of his position.
"When the receivers would work out on their own at the park, I'd go out and cover them," he said. "I'd listen to what the coaches would tell them. I'd talk to Coach Petitbon. I did everything I could to learn my position. I really didn't know that much about playing it in college, about how to read offenses and react, but people like Joe Lavender have really been helpful, they've pointed out a lot of little things to me. We were a strict zone team and man-to-man was really different for me."
McDaniel came to this camp heavier (up to 176) and stronger. He has a bull neck and impressive looking arms. And for the first time in his football career, he relishes the feel of hitting people instead of being pushed around.
"He's very intelligent and he really learned the techniques of the position," Petitbon said. "He made himself into a player. It's remarkable what he has done in a year. He was just taking up space last year."
By the end of Saturday's scrimmage, the first of the summer, the Redskins should have a better idea of how many other young prospects they have in camp. Although some experienced Washington veterans will participate, including running backs Clarence Harmon and Nick Giaquinto, most of the work will be handled by draft choices and free agents.
There will be special attention given to:
Quarterback. Tom Flick will start and Phil Kessel, Bob Holly and Chuck Garrity also will play.
Linebacker. Draft choices Jeff Goff and LeMont Jeffers and young veterans Mel Kaufman and Larry Kubin have been impressive. Before the arrival of Monte Coleman and friends, they need to also exhibit some tackling ability.
Defensive line. Mike Clark is coming back from a bruised knee but has shown flashes of quickness. Can he sustain a rush against the Colts' offensive line?
Offensive line. Tackle Donald Laster and guard Gary Sayre have impressed Joe Bugel, the line coach. But this also is the one area that usually breaks down in a scrimmage.
Tight end. Clint Didier and rookie Mike Williams are challenging solidly for roster spots.
The scrimmage will be divided into two parts. The first will consist of passing, with linemen blocking one on one on another part of the field. Then each team will run four, 10-play, full-contact series.
Linebacker John Schachtner, sev-enth-round draftee, is being with- held from formal practices while he rehabilitates an ailing right foot, the one fractured early in his senior sea- son at Northern Arizona. The Red- skins hope he can strengthen it enough to rejoin workouts...Re- ceiver Charles Chisley of UDC, with a broken collarbone projected to idle him three months, has been placed on injured reserve . . . Expect some roster cuts after today's scrimmage (admission $3). The remaining vet- erans are due in Saturday.