Everyone wants a Kellen Winslow.
The Washington Redskins seriously think they may have found one.
They aren't ready yet to start comparing their rookie tight end, 6-foot-4, 250-pound Mike Williams, to Winslow, especially since Williams hasn't played a down in the National Football League. But Coach Joe Gibbs and the tight ends coach, Warren Simmons, are excited about Williams and said they plan to use him the way the San Diego Chargers use Winslow.
Winslow has redefined the position of tight end.
He often lines up a step off the line or split wide; on many plays he goes in motion. The objective is to get him involved in the offense as much as possible and do it without the defense being able to key on him. If he never lines up in the same place twice, keying on him can cause defenses even more problems
Gibbs' primary objective in the offseason was to find a player like Winslow. He conducted the search himself, personally scouting Williams at Alabama A & M. Then the Redskins traded cornerback Lemar Parrish to Buffalo for a fifth-round draft choice and used it to get Williams.
"Just about everyone is looking for a Kellen," said Simmons, "but it's difficult to find them. We think we've come across a guy who can possibly do many of the things Kellen does.
"We know what we want for our system, so we went out and looked for exactly that type of person, where a number of other teams are looking for standard tight ends, with the hope they can make them that type of player.
"We're confident Donnie Warren can handle the regular tight end chores, so we want that special kind of player to play with him."
Williams caught seven passes for 90 yards in the preseason and did nothing to cause the Redskins to think he isn't their man.
They also have two other tight ends on their roster, Rick Walker and Clint Didier.
"Some people might think that's a lot of tight ends, especially since we thought about keeping five," said Simmons. "But you have to understand, because of our system, it isn't just a tight end, but a halfback, too. Really, we have four men playing two positions, so we aren't overloaded there."
On the depth chart, Williams is listed as the fourth tight end. But in yesterday's practice he was the second whenever the team went to its two tight end alignment.
That was until Williams twisted his right ankle and had to leave early. The injury isn't serious and he's expected to practice today.
"He's very intelligent and he has the speed, quickness and mental and physical toughness," said Simmons. "I'll tell you how tough he is: he had a broken ankle last year in college and he wanted to play, so he took the cast off himself, played the game and then put it back on."
Williams, who has a degree in business administration, said that may not have been the wisest thing he ever did, "but I really wanted to play that game."
At Alabama A & M, Williams went in motion, lined up in the backfield and as a wide out, so picking up the Redskins' system wasn't that major an adjustment.
"I know when I go into the game, I'll be part of the offense," he said. "The biggest problem I've had is with the blocking. I was also scared all the way through camp because I had four veterans in front of me."
Asked if he tries to pattern himself after Winslow, Williams rocked back in his seat and said, "He's the man. My goal is to do the same things he does and I think that's what they want me for."
The Redskins used Terry Metcalf in that role last season and he caught 48 passes. Metcalf, who was cut Monday, is only 5-11 and not nearly as imposing physically as Williams.
Gibbs said he probably would use the two running back alignment more now that Metcalf is no longer with the team, but added that how well Williams does may determine how much he uses two tight ends.
Wide receiver Charlie Brown made several spectacular catches in practice and Gibbs said afterward that Brown had beaten out Virgil Seay and would start against Philadelphia Sunday . . . Ron Saul, who was put on injured reserve Monday, had arthroscopic surgery yesterday on the damaged cartilage in his right knee.