Washington Redskins rookie Sean Taylor continues to move closer to winning a starting job, and will no doubt be looking to make more big plays when he travels back to south Florida for Saturday's preseason game against Miami.
Taylor, the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft from the University of Miami, has shined in his first two exhibition games, registering two interceptions and a touchdown in his debut and forcing a fumble Saturday night.
Taylor, 21, began training camp as the third-string free safety and has moved up to the second team, behind third-year player Andre Lott. Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach-defense, said Taylor will not start against the Dolphins but is expected to play a bit with the first team. Although Taylor's size -- 6 feet 2, 231 pounds -- athleticism and flair for making big plays have created an immediate buzz at Redskins Park, there are still areas in which he must improve.
"I feel I'm a starter," Taylor told the Associated Press. "If I said I want to be second place, I wouldn't be a good player. I understand there's a time process, but I'm not a second-place guy." Taylor declined to speak to The Washington Post yesterday.
Taylor's zest for getting to the ball could leave a large margin for error; in college his raw speed and instincts could overcome mistakes, but Williams said Taylor has been beaten a few times on long passes in practice this week.
"I need to make sure that he is respecting the speed in the NFL so he doesn't give up points in a real game," Williams said.
Should Taylor continue to make an impact, he could be in the starting lineup for the opening of the regular season against Tampa Bay on Sept. 12. After a slow start in practice he began picking off passes and imposing himself in drills in the second week of training camp. The clamor among fans to get Taylor on the field more began after his two interceptions against Denver in the Hall of Fame game Aug. 9.
Ifeanyi Ohalete, who started 15 games at free safety last season, was cut on Tuesday, but that did not convince the coaches to thrust Taylor on to the first team given his lack of experience.
"We're bringing him along slowly," said safeties coach Steve Jackson, "and he's getting better and better every day. Being behind those other guys and seeing the way they work, he's learning a lot from them, he's learning a lot from his teammates. Even [Ohalete] took him under his wing. All of those guys are bringing him along just right."
Jackson said Taylor has been adapting to the speed and angles of the pro game, as well as the velocity with which quarterbacks throw the ball in the NFL and the ability of pro receivers to accelerate.
"He's picking it up day in and day out. He's been working hard," Jackson said.
It did not take Taylor long to pick up a nickname, either. He looks like a linebacker in the secondary, hulking over the field. With his long legs and wide arms span he covers substantial ground.
"His nickname is 'Swoop,' " Jackson said, "because he comes down like a hawk out of the air and just swoops down."
Redskins Notes: Several players came back from minor injuries yesterday, including running backs Clinton Portis and Chad Morton, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, offensive linemen Kenyatta Jones and Randy Thomas, wide receivers Taylor Jacobs and Rod Gardner, and cornerback Rufus Brown. But linebackers LaVar Arrington (sore knee) and Mike Barrow (tendinitis in knee), receiver Darnerien McCants (sprained knee and ankle) and tackle Chris Samuels (mild concussion) were among the prominent players still out. Arrington, McCants and Samuels were injured Tuesday and are listed as day-to-day, while Barrow is expected to miss Saturday's game. . . . Place kicker John Hall returned for practice yesterday after being excused for a few days to help his parents repair their home in Florida, which was damaged by Hurricane Charley over the weekend. . . . Gibbs had a select group of invited guests at yesterday's practice and stopped briefly to chat with them while the players were stretching. "If you got any plays, just give 'em to me now," he joked. . . . Ohalete was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Cardinals yesterday, NFL sources said.