'Skins try to bulk up offensive line

5th- and 6th-round draft picks used on 300-pound linemen who can play guard or tackle

NFL Draft

April 26, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - If there were any doubts about Joe Gibbs' preference to improve the Washington Redskins' offense, the coach dispelled those notions yesterday.

After using the No. 5 overall pick in the NFL draft on Miami safety Sean Taylor, the Redskins chose offensive linemen with their fifth- and sixth-round selections during the second day of the draft.

The Redskins used the 151st overall pick to take California tackle Mark Wilson. One round and 29 slots later, the team drafted Notre Dame lineman Jim Molinaro.

Add the team's third-round choice of Utah State tight end Chris Cooley, and Washington used its final three selections on a unit that had added quarterback Mark Brunell, running back Clinton Portis and wide receiver James Thrash through trades this offseason.

Rather than shore up a defensive line that contributed to the league's 24th-ranked run defense, Gibbs said the club elected to draft players who had the best chance to make the team.

"You don't want to bring somebody in and [say], `He's not going to make it,' " Gibbs said. "So we were trying to be real specific there at the end, and we have places on the offensive line where they could make it."

Later, Gibbs said, "I think we maximized our opportunities in the draft for what we had. ... We knew we wanted to add somebody to H [play H-back] and we did that. We wanted to take a player that was a game-changer and we did that.

"And then the place that we felt like we had the best opportunity for somebody to step in here was the offensive line. So I felt real good about it [the draft] considering we didn't have that many picks."

In Wilson, the Redskins get a 6-foot-6, 314-pound lineman who started all 48 games with the Golden Bears, spending his first two seasons at right tackle before shifting to left tackle.

Wilson, whom Gibbs said can play tackle or guard, said he spent two months at Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona to improve his standing among NFL general managers and scouts.

"I'm really excited to be working with [assistant head] coach Joe Bugel," Wilson said during a conference call. "Now that Coach Gibbs is back with the Redskins, I think there's going to be some exciting things happening."

Like Wilson, Molinaro can play tackle or guard. The 6-6, 309-pound player started all 11 games last season as the left tackle for the Fighting Irish, who averaged 336.3 yards a game on offense.

Cooley - whom the Redskins selected late in the third round Saturday night after swapping fifth-round picks and a 2005 second-round choice with the New Orleans Saints - was used as a fullback, tight end and blocker by Utah State. His blocking skills earned him the Aggies' Golden Helmet Award, which is given to the team's hardest hitter.

By not drafting a defensive lineman, Washington gave a vote of confidence to its current group of 14 linemen. Only four - ends Regan Upshaw, Ron Warner and Renaldo Wynn and tackle Jermaine Haley - saw substantial playing time on a unit that accounted for 12 1/2 of the defense's total 27 sacks.

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