Corner still question for 'Skins

Wright likely replacement for hurt Springs in opener

Pro Football

September 09, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

ASHBURN, Va. -- Even before Shawn Springs underwent surgery for a torn abdominal muscle last month, there were concerns about the cornerback position on the Washington Redskins.

The biggest question was about who would replace Springs if age and injury caught up with the 31-year-old cornerback, who, despite starting 15 games for the Redskins last season, was bothered by nagging leg and groin problems.

It's been nearly a month since Springs has been out, and the answer is not readily apparent.

Going into Monday night's season opener against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field, the Redskins know they will be without Springs but are not that certain as to who, if anybody, can take his place.

"We may have to get it out of two people," secondary coach Jerry Gray said.

The likely candidate for the starting role is Kenny Wright, an eight-year veteran who started for Jacksonville last season but was signed in the offseason to be a backup for Springs and Carlos Rogers. If Wright has trouble, as he did at times throughout the preseason, the other choice is Mike Rumph, who came over from San Francisco last month in a trade for wide receiver Taylor Jacobs.

Some might attribute the trouble the cornerbacks had during the preseason to the lack of a pass rush from a banged-up defensive line, but Gray believes the cornerbacks were partly culpable.

"You've still got to cover, guys got to get into position to make plays and they've got to make plays," Gray said. "Teams are going to try us, and if they throw the ball in the middle of the field and you get a pick, they'll stop trying you. In this league, it's about seeing is believing."

Said Wright: "We had some lapses where we didn't play good ball, but we had some plays where we did play Redskin football. We're going to look at differences and correct it for Monday night."

The Redskins would not have acquired Rumph, a former No. 1 draft pick in 2002 who has been hampered by injuries, if they were totally satisfied with Wright. Springs' injury made it a necessity.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said several of Rumph's former University of Miami teammates, including Clinton Portis and Sean Taylor, spoke up on his behalf.

"When I came over, just to hear that those guys were vouching for me, I don't want to come out and let them down, knowing these guys are behind me 100 percent," said Rumph, who played in only five games the past two years. "When the phone call came it was almost like a blessing, to be honest."

The first few days were a whirlwind for Rumph, who was on the field against the New York Jets a couple of days after being traded. Gray has been impressed with his work ethic.

"He's doing good," Gray said of Rumph. "We're giving him things we know he can run. The best thing about him is that he's always coming up at nighttime and having extra meetings. We have to make sure he is ready for everything we put in during training camp."

Said Rumph: "I can honestly say that this staff is doing a great job. The practice work we get is unheard of. I'm learning a lot of stuff. There's a lot of stuff I'm working on that I never worked on before. It just makes me that much better of a player."

Wright, too, is getting more comfortable.

"Now it's just going out and playing instead of trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be here and supposed to be there," he said.

Gray said that the preseason has been an adjustment for the entire defensive backfield. Aside from Wright and Rumph taking over for Springs, safety Adam Archuleta is getting used to a new system after playing his first five seasons in St. Louis.

"If we had four guys from last year, you try to pick up where you left off," Gray said. "Compared to trying and learning a guy, what can he do, what he cannot do. You go through training camp and figure out that stuff. Then you go through the [preseason] games and figure out that stuff. Hopefully we've figured it out and we'll put them in a position to win."

Notes -- Portis worked out yesterday in shoulder pads and a harness to protect the left shoulder he partially dislocated last month, and didn't seem too optimistic about playing Monday night. "The way things look, you will probably see 26 [his jersey number] against Dallas," Portis said of a Sept. 17 road game. ... Defensive end Renaldo Wynn was upgraded to probable after returning earlier in the week from a sprained ankle.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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