Redskins hope Ervins is another Meggett

August 01, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

CARLISLE, Pa. -- Every time Joe Gibbs thinks about Dave Meggett wearing a New York Giants uniform, he remembers the 1989 NFL draft.

"I'm still mad about that," the Washington Redskins coach said yesterday. "Bobby [Beathard] got everybody out of Towson [State] except Meggett."

Beathard, the former Redskins general manager who now is GM for the San Diego Chargers, invited several Towson players

to camp. None of the free agents he signed from the school made it.

In the 1989 draft, he took quarterback Jeff Graham in the fourth round and defensive back Tim Smiley in the fifth round. Later in the fifth round the Giants selected Meggett, a player Beathard had brought to Redskin Park for a workout.

Meggett, who is holding out, has been a standout specialist for the Giants; Graham and Smiley didn't make it.

"He's haunted us," Gibbs said of Meggett. "We can't get him down. He's a heck of a football player."

The Redskins like to think they balanced the scales this year. They like to think their third-round pick, Ricky Ervins, can become another Meggett.

Though Ervins, at 200 pounds, is 20 pounds heavier than Meggett, they're both 5 feet 7.

Ervins' play has been a highlight of training camp. On the final play of the scrimmage against the New York Jets on Saturday, he took a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 25-yard touch down.

"He turns small plays into big plays," Gibbs said. "He can do everything. We'll have to see how he fits in. Right now he looks closer to Earnest [Byner] than anybody we've got. I don't want to brag on him too much. If he continues to do what he's doing in these scrimmages, we've got high hopes."

When Meggett's name was mentioned, Gibbs said, "Several people have mentioned that [likening him to Meggett]. If he runs over the Giants, then I'm going to say he's like Meggett."

Redskins running backs coach Don Breaux also sings Ervins' praises.

"He can take a short pass and make something happen with it," Breaux said. "That's been a bonus. We've been really pleased with that."

Since he played at Southern Cal, which doesn't emphasize throwing to the backs, the Redskins weren't sure he could handle that role.

Yet he's adapted to it well.

"He has the ability to separate when he makes his final move to move away from somebody," Breaux said.

Right now, Byner is the team's No. 1 running back and third-down back. But no player ever has filled both roles throughout a season in Gibbs' one-back offense.

If Ervins becomes the third-down back, Byner could concentrate on being the running back.

"I think before the season is over, he's going to be a factor there [as third-down back]," Breaux said. His only competition is second-year back Brian Mitchell, who'll concentrate on special teams.

Mitchell and Ervins both have the ability to return kicks.

Neither figures to do much running on first down because Byner, Gerald Riggs -- if he stays healthy -- and Plan B free agent John Settle are expected to handle that role.

Ervins seems to be modest about his accomplishments.

Of his touchdown run with the short pass Saturday, he said: "I don't know how to describe that. It's just lucky. I guess anybody can do it. It's just being out there at the right time when the $$ backs are dropping off too far and leaving a big gap and a lot of air back there."

Of his overall play, Ervins said, "I'm just hanging in there and learning the system."

Ervins led the Pacific-10 in rushing as a junior with 1,395 yards, but suffered an ankle injury his senior year that cost him eight games and dropped his value in the eyes of scouts. He's had no problem with his ankle in camp and said he doesn't even think about the injury.

Asked what his goals are, he said: "That's one thing that's very confidential. I keep my goals inside. I never broadcast them."

Asked about Meggett, he said, "I could never compare myself to guys like that who've been in the league a couple of years."

He does say, though, that if he establishes himself in a couple of years, he wouldn't mind being likened to the Detroit Lions' Barry Sanders.

NOTES: Gibbs said he hopes the league will bring back the practice squad, which has been a casualty of the legal dispute between the players and owners. He also complained again about the 80-man roster. "We've got a lot of rules now that hurt people," he said. "The players are suffering.". . . Riggs returned to practice after missing Tuesday's workout with a sprained ankle. . . . The Redskins had an intrasquad scrimmage last night at Carlisle High School. . . . TE Ron Middleton, playing for injured Don Warren, bruised his rib and was held out of the scrimmage.

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