Injuries have kept Gregg Williams, the Washington Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, from using several starters on his first unit. Williams said yesterday that the situation has provided the best gauge for reserves and players trying to make the roster.

"Last week, from an evaluation standpoint, defensively you really couldn't have scripted it any better," Williams said. "The fact that we [kept out] nine guys, we got a chance to see new guys play against people that are going to play on NFL rosters.

"I always laugh and shake my head when people continue to try to make an opinion on somebody that plays at the end of a preseason game against somebody who also is not going to make an NFL team. We got a chance to move guys up. It was good, and you're going to see it again this week."

In a wide-ranging interview yesterday, Williams spoke about several issues, including the return of injured players such as linebacker LaVar Arrington, the progress of safety Sean Taylor since last season, and the strong play of his lesser-known players.

Taylor didn't enter Saturday's game until the second quarter, when he joined the third team after replacing Matt Bowen. But Williams again admonished reporters for trying to read into his lineups. "Evidently you guys know more than me," Williams said. "You must be in our meetings and deciding who's starting because you continue to write about it."

Williams said Taylor is performing better than at this point last year despite not attending any offseason workouts. Williams said he believes Taylor has improved his football knowledge since last year, although there's still plenty of room to grow. "He's more comfortable with what happens in front of him with offensive systems and schemes," said Williams, who has made it a goal to persuade Taylor to attend voluntary workouts next season. "By no means is he a polished product. None of them are.

"It's the experience from last year, and obviously he's been doing some work that all of us didn't know about, which is good."

Williams said in the preseason opener, Taylor borrowed safety Pierson Prioleau's helmet for several plays after his own helmet broke.

"He doesn't slow down," Williams marveled. "He's an old-school player. It doesn't make any different if you're playing in the parking lot or in the tunnel."

Eric Brown Signed

The Redskins added depth to their safety corps by signing eight-year veteran Eric Brown, who was released in March after three seasons with the Houston Texans. Brown has started in 87 of 97 games but will be battling for a roster spot. . . .

On Monday, the defense was bolstered by the return of Rogers, Arrington and nose tackle Brandon Noble. Williams said Arrington, who increased his workload in practice yesterday, is in excellent physical shape. "He's in better condition right now than anytime last year, even before he was hurt," Williams said, "because he's on a mission." . . .

Yesterday, the Redskins revealed that safety Ryan Clark suffered a sprained knee in Monday's practice. Clark will be out this week and reevaluated next week. . . .

Washington's defensive backs have come up with a weekly award in honor of former Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot, who is now with the Minnesota Vikings. After a morning walk-through, Clark held the award, which was inscribed "Fred 'Silky Johnson' Smoot Award."

"It's a prestigious honor given to a defensive player who makes a big impact," said Clark, the first recipient. . . .

Center Cory Raymer missed practice yesterday to be in Colorado with his wife, who was having complications from her pregnancy. "It was a better report this morning," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "Hopefully, something will be resolved quick."