Last offseason, defensive end Phillip Daniels played in only five games -- all starts -- because of groin and wrist injuries. The experience was especially frustrating because Daniels had been a constant on the field during his nine NFL seasons.

Now Daniels is back at right defensive end to provide Washington with some pass rushing that was lacking on a line that performed surprisingly well.

"To sit on the side with your teammates out there playing their hearts out, that really hurt," said Daniels, who before last year missed no more than three games in a season. . . .

"If we all could get our sack totals up, it makes for a great season. I can come out and do those things. I'm big [6 feet 5, 285]. Penetrating and making things happen for my teammates is what I'm all about."

Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, compared Daniels to defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin; he is such a force that offenses must account for him, especially with double-teams.

"We think we've got another free agent this year, because last year he didn't get a chance to play as much as we wanted him to play," Williams said of Daniels. "We were different defensively when he played. We were much stronger up front.

"There's so many things that Phillip can do that doesn't show up on the normal stat sheet. And that causes sacks, causes tackles for losses where he's been the first guy there at the point [of attack], and somebody else cleans up behind him."

Bowen Back in Form

Strong safety Ryan Clark remains ahead of Matt Bowen on Washington's unofficial depth chart. However, Bowen has frequently practiced with the first unit, an indication of how far he has come from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cut short his season in Week 5 last year. Despite the knee injury, Bowen has shown his familiar kamikaze style that makes him a good fit in Williams's attacking defense.

"As a coach, my biggest worry is slowing him down," Williams said. "He works so hard to do things exactly the way you want it done. Matt is such a mentally tough person. He pushes the physical limits every single day right to the brink.

"We've got to be real smart as coaches and as trainers there on how much we let him do. Right now, he thinks he's better than he's ever been."

Playing Time

Coach Joe Gibbs doesn't plan on telling his starters how much time they will play during their preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers tomorrow night at Bank of America Stadium. Generally early in the preseason, most starters play the first quarter, and reserves play the rest.

"I'm always reluctant to say because as soon as you tell them something, they're going to shut it off at that point," Gibbs explained. "I always kind of like to go off feel. I like everybody to think they're going to play the whole game. But certainly we need a good rhythm to get going on offense.

"The defensive coaches are going to kind of go by feel over there. [Special teams coach] Danny [Smith] has got a lot of guys he wants to look at. It's an important start for us."

'Free Sean Taylor'

Yesterday's practice was the final opportunity for fans to watch the Redskins practice. One T-shirt that has popped up among spectators is in support of safety Sean Taylor, who faces a minimum of three years in jail if he's found guilty of a felony count of aggravated assault that stemmed from his alleged role in an incident in Miami in early June. The yellow shirt says "Free Sean Taylor."

During last Saturday's scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens, a dozen or so fans sitting together at M&T Bank Stadium wore the T-shirts. Taylor's trial date is Sept. 12, one day after Washington's season opener against the Chicago Bears, although it's expected to be postponed until after the season. . . .

Players who won't be in uniform for tomorrow's preseason game are linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee), safety Tony Dixon (hamstring), wideout Taylor Jacobs (toe), defensive tackle Brandon Noble (knee) and cornerback Carlos Rogers (foot and ankle). All the other injured players will be a game-time decision. . . .When full practice resumes Monday, Arrington, Noble and Rogers are expected to participate in their first limited drills of training camp.