Rocky McIntosh doesn't like it when anyone beats him--not even in a scrimmage.
That's what happened in the Redskins-Ravens scrimmage on Aug. 4 at M&T Bank Stadium. McIntosh let tight end Todd Heap pull in a pass in front of him, then slide past him for a 17-yard gain.
The play so bothered McIntosh that he put an emphasis on his pass coverage skills the next week in practice.
"He had a couple of errors in the scrimmage against Baltimore, but the very next week we didn't see them rise up again," McIntosh said. "He's correcting them."
Three weeks later, McIntosh gets a second chance against Heap and the Ravens, as the Redskins host Baltimore this Saturday night at FedExField.
"I watched him on Sunday night [in the Ravens-Giants preseason game]," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. "We'll see what he does. He's a great tight end, but we'll see what I can do, too."
So far this preseason, McIntosh has turned heads with his strong play. In last Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he helped lead a defensive stand that kept the Steelers out of the end zone at the end of the first half.
Overall, McIntosh recorded seven tackles (four solo) and two passes defended in the game.
And he was back at Redskins Park early on Sunday morning reviewing his performance on film.
"I was up here pretty early again, I was here too early because I thought we had to lift weights in the morning," he said. "So I had to go run and grab some breakfast, and then come back."
Said Williams: "Rocky is very coach-able. It's one thing for a coach to force something down your throat, but Rocky is in here bright and early, before the coaches started grading the film.
"He goes through the practices and he goes through the game film. He comes in and gets individual things because he wants to know and he wants to be really good. That's special. I really appreciate his energy and his urgency in wanting to improve."
McIntosh was the Redskins' top draft pick in 2006. The club, without a first-round draft pick, traded up in the second round to grab 6-2, 232-pound weak-side linebacker.
McIntosh played sparingly on defense as a rookie, although he excelled on special teams. He finally earned a starting assignment the last two weeks of the regular season, and recorded 20 tackles.
This offseason, McIntosh was anointed the starting job at weak-side linebacker, replacing the departed Warrick Holdman. He responded by being among the most dedicated participants in the Redskins' off-season workout program.
"It was no problem for me," he said. "If you want to get better, you have to put in the hard work, and then go and do it. I stayed here in the offseason to get better, and hopefully it will pay off."
During training camp, McIntosh was expected to compete with Lemar Marshall for the weak-side job, but that competition never materialized. Marshall was released earlier this week.
Is all this a turning point in McIntosh's career?
"Maybe...I don't know, we'll see," he said. "Right now it's just preseason. We still have 16-17 games to go. We'll see when the season is done."
McIntosh keeps his mindset on the here and now--and that means the Baltimore Ravens this Saturday night.
The Redskins' defense has been impressive in the early going, but McIntosh only sees room for improvement. He wants to see more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And he wants the defense to force more turnovers.
"As a defense, we still have a lot of areas to improve," he said. "We're putting a big emphasis on turnovers right now. That's what we need to start doing."