The "experimental" tag attached to Mark May's move from tackle to right guard has been removed. The Redskins are so pleased with May's play in training camp that he now is the starter at his new position.
"When we decided to make the move with Mark, we agreed within the staff that we would look at him in minicamp and through a week of two-a-day practices in training camp," said Joe Bugel, the offensive line coach.
"There is no question in my mind now that Mark is a guard. He's there to stay. He's the starter and I think he has the potential to be a great one there, I really do."
Bugel knows that any superlatives he showers on May probably will be greeted with skepticism from fans, considering the young lineman's problems at left tackle last season.
May, the much-touted 1981 No. 1 draft choice from Pittsburgh, lost his starting job to free agent Joe Jacoby midway through the schedule. He also lost too much weight and became too weak to be an adequate pro player.
But after watching May spend the offseason developing his strength and growing from 255 to 285 pounds, Bugel was determined to find a position for him.
"We wanted to get our five best athletes in there," Bugel said. "Jacoby and (George) Starke were our tackles, so I looked to guard. We just weren't sure whether Mark could run fast enough or pull well enough to do it."
May erased most of the doubts about his quickness in the spring minicamp, improving his previous 40-yard time from 5.5 to 5.1. The Redskin film crew also took extensive footage of May during team and line drills, which gave the coaching staff the opportunity to analyze virtually his every step.
"If he flopped, I wanted to be able to show him on film what went wrong," Bugel said. "I told him I would look him in the eye and say, 'You can't do it at guard. You have to do it at tackle in this league.' "
"I was really anxious to see him pass protect," Bugel said. "But the first day, after he went up against Dave Butz, I didn't have a lot of questions left . . . he really packs a wallop. Can you imagine what it means to weigh that much and be able to run a 40 in 5.1? That's a hulk.
"Plus he has really long arms, which are an asset at guard. He can get those arms extended and into the defensive guy and keep him away. He doesn't have to back up an inch. He still needs work on his pulling and his blocking on screens, but that will come, day by day."
Pass protection, of course, has remained the key question about May since he struggled last year at tackle. But at guard, with a center on one side and a tackle on the other, he no longer is isolated. He admits he has benefited from the closer confines and from not having to worry about a defensive end trying to sprint by him on his left shoulder.
"I knew learning to run a lot at guard would be a change, but I've really enjoyed it," May said. "The pulling and all that is new, but I feel very comfortable doing it already. I see the strong points of playing guard, especially being able to fire out and hit somebody all the time.
"That's one of my problems on sweeps and such. I see a defensive back coming up and I want to knock his head off. I have to learn to be more patient. The schemes were easier at tackle, it was a lot less complicated to play. But I had a lot of problems being consistent on my pass-blocking sets. At guard, I'm not having the same troubles."
May laughed. "Of course, at tackle, I didn't have to block Dave Butz every day in practice either. Coach Bugel won't let me go against anyone else. After a while it gets tiring going against a guy who weighs 295. At least it makes me learn fast, just to survive."
Even so, after his 1981 experiences, May is being as cautious as possible about his new position.
"I've mostly told people we'd have to wait and see how I did," he said. "But yes, I'm happy and I'm excited. I wanted to play and this was the way to do it. I'm just trying stay even emotionally as much as I can."
Bugel, who made the decision to replace May with Jacoby, has taken some calculated major risks with May this summer. Even before camp began, May was moved into the regular lineup ahead of Melvin Jones, last year's early starter, and Fred Dean, who has been a starter at guard and tackle for two seasons.
With May at guard, the Redskins have an enormous front line, another factor Bugel has considered. Starke, the right tackle, is 260, the heaviest of his career. Jacoby is 295, left guard Russ Grimm is 265 and center Jeff Bostic is 252.
"We didn't draft Mark No. 1 to see him fail," Bugel said. "People can think what they want, but we aren't trying to make that draft decision look good by finding a position for him. If he wasn't legitimate, he wouldn't be there. He knows it and the players know it.
"He could have tossed it in last season, after what happened to him. Instead, he worked like a man obsessed in the offseason." Three Punters Released By a Washington Post Staff Writer
CARLISLE, Pa., Aug. 6--The Redskins cut three punters today, leaving veteran Mike Connell and rookie Jeff Hayes to compete for the roster position.
Released were Rod Salata of Illinois State, Mike Jezulin of San Diego State and Alan Bollinger of Auburn. "We wanted to get down to where we can let them (Connell and Hayes) compete," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "Now we can do a good job of evaluating them in the preseason."
Gibbs said receiver Terry Metcalf, still recovering from an offseason concussion, is showing improvement. Metcalf was having difficulty running fluidly. "If he drops off again, we will arrange to have every muscle group in his body tested to see what's wrong," Gibbs said.