Safety Sean Taylor's homecoming to south Florida on Saturday night provided the rookie with an instant highlight as he earned his first start in the Washington Redskins' 17-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Pro Player Stadium. Taylor, the fifth overall pick from the University of Miami, made an impact in his first two exhibition games, when he was with the reserves, and he was moved ahead of free safety Andre Lott into the starting lineup against Miami.
As usual, Taylor quickly made his mark. He was all over the place on the Dolphins' first drive, chasing down ball carriers. Early in the drive wide receiver Chris Chambers caught a pass in front of Taylor, and the rookie was called for an illegal contact penalty that negated a third-down sack by Antonio Pierce and gave the Dolphins a first down. Taylor would more than atone for that mistake, however, as he single-handedly stalled the Dolphins' drive.
After Chambers caught a pass between the hash marks in Washington territory, Taylor cracked into him, leading with his shoulder. Chambers fumbled the ball and Taylor scooped it up and headed upfield. Chambers remained on his back for several minutes and was eventually helped to his feet by a teammate.
Coach Joe Gibbs was duly impressed, saying: "He covers a lot of ground and he's a playmaker back there. We're really pleased; we think we got ourselves a real good one there."
Taylor has made a big play in every appearance with the Redskins, picking off two passes and returning one for a touchdown in his debut, and forcing a fumble last Saturday against Carolina. He is slated to be the Week 1 starter after beginning camp with the third string.
"It's working out pretty smooth right now -- I just have to take it step by step, and making plays is part of that," he said.
Team Loses Out on Ogunleye
The Redskins inquired about Miami pass-rushing specialist Adewale Ogunleye before the Dolphins agreed to trade the unsigned restricted free agent to Chicago in exchange for wide receiver Marty Booker and a third-round pick next year, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Redskins officials denied approaching the Dolphins about Ogunleye -- who led the AFC with 15 sacks last season and who would fill a need on the defensive line -- but owner Daniel Snyder contacted agent Drew Rosenhaus and was willing to meet the $12 million signing bonus the defensive end was demanding, according to the source, but the Redskins did not have the personnel to fill Miami's needs.
The Bears negotiated with Rosenhaus into the night, as Miami extended a deadline by which Chicago had the right to negotiate with him, before finally agreeing to terms -- a six-year, $34 million deal that includes about $15 million in bonuses. The Redskins lacked the proven offensive players the Dolphins coveted after losing star running back Ricky Williams (retirement) and wide receiver David Boston (season-ending injury). Booker had 52 catches for 715 yards and four touchdowns last season. Washington dangled draft picks, but the Dolphins were seeking immediate help.
Against the Dolphins, Washington's defensive line turned in a strong performance, preventing Miami from moving the ball and consistently pressuring the quarterback, something it failed to do last season.
Harris Makes Debut
Cornerback Walt Harris made his debut for the Redskins. He was coming off of major knee surgery at the time he was signed in the offseason and returned to practice last week. . . . Cornerback Shawn Springs left in the first quarter suffering from a stomach virus and did not return. . . . Linebackers LaVar Arrington (knee sprain) and Mike Barrow (tendinitis in knee), wide receiver Darnerien McCants (ankle), tight end Fred Baxter (knee), cornerback Rashad Bauman (hamstring), linebacker Chris Clemons (hamstring), wide receiver Cliff Russell (hamstring) and running back Ladell Betts (hamstring) did not travel to Miami.