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Finding Depth at Cornerback a Key




Shawn Springs is now in his third season with the Redskins, so the veteran cornerback has become something of an expert on the NFC East.

Springs spoke yesterday on an issue that all NFC East clubs have long since come to realize: The importance of depth on a roster. It just can't be underestimated.

"It's really important in our division," the 6-0, 204-pound 10-year NFL veteran declared following a morning workout at steamy Redskins Park. "This is a physical division and you're going to have to expect some injuries."

Added Springs: "The guys who start out as second- or third-team guys, they have to be ready to play. Injuries happen every year on every team. So, depth is really important."

Springs can expect that he'll be paired with Carlos Rogers at corner in 2006 but beyond that it's an open question--and a critical one at the position in terms of roster spots.

Beyond that, new Redskins assistant coach Jerry Gray has been working for months to find reserve talent from a pool of players that includes Kenny Wright, Christian Morton, Ade Jimoh and Dimitri Patterson.

At least two of those four players will have to emerge prior to Sept. 11, when the Minnesota Vikings come to FedExField.

Wright, a seven-year veteran who started 16 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, would appear to have an advantage, given his experience.

Coaches have been impressed with Jimoh's development in recent years. He remains a stalwart on special teams.

The youngsters have occasionally shown some flashes during training camp. Morton made an impression in the Aug. 2 practice session when he stepped in front of a Jason Campbell pass for an interception and returned it for a score.

Finding depth at corner is critical during summer camp when you're looking ahead to a division that features opposing quarterbacks the caliber of Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb and Drew Bledsoe.

Regarding Springs, most teams stayed away from his side of the field last season. He's earned the reputation as one of the top corners in the league, despite recent Pro Bowl snubs.

Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams has learned over the past two years just how well Springs fits into his team's defensive schemes.

One of the underrated aspects of Springs' game is his versatility. Williams says Springs is not your standard NFL cornerback.

He adds: "Shawn can play in the nickel and slot and be moved back to the safety position. We like those guys who can play more than one position. He fits that description very well."

In 2005, his second year with the Redskins after seven seasons in Seattle, Springs started 15 games in the regular season and finished with 51 tackles. He also helped mentor rookie corner Rogers.

Having Springs on the field is not unlike adding the experience of another coach. That will help should the Redskins rely on young defensive backs.

Asked to survey the NFC East for 2006, Springs said: "It's one of those conferences where you can be 8-8 and still be a pretty good football team. We know we have to work hard. One or two key losses can sink you."

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