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Wilson Making a Push For a Roster Spot


Chris Wilson took a moment, in the middle of the Redskins' second preseason game, to look around at his teammates.

Standing behind the first-year defensive end was London Fletcher.

In the secondary were Sean Taylor, Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot.

Wilson took only a moment, because the ball was snapped and he had to get after the quarterback.

Said Wilson: "I was telling London, 'You all don't know how I feel. I'm out there on the field in the second quarter and there was Shawn Springs, Fred Smoot and everyone in the huddle.'"

For Wilson, the pressure to make the Redskins' roster is nothing like the pressure of lining up beside players he has admired for years.

"I feel like I have to put the hammer down on somebody--I can't be the weak link playing alongside guys who are so established in the league," Wilson said.

So far this preseason, Wilson has lived up to his teammates' standards.

By earning playing time with the first-team defense, he has emerged from long-shot status to having a legitimate chance at making the 53-man roster.

"One of the first steps to winning a championship is earning your teammates' respect," Wilson said. "I just feel like, hearing their advice, I can get to that level if I keep learning and keep progressing."

Wilson signed with the Redskins in early January from the Canadian Football League. He starred with the British Columbia Lions the last two years, starting 18 games in 2006 and recording 29 tackles, five sacks and one interception.

Last year, the Lions won the Grey Cup championship, something that Wilson takes great pride in.

Wilson believes his CFL experience prepared him for the NFL.

"I learned how to be a champion and how to be a pro," he said. "From the CFL, this is a big leap. A big leap. I can imagine how it is for a guy coming from college and jumping into this."

As a defensive end, Wilson's top attribute is his speed, something that assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams has emphasized in his 2007 unit.

Coming out of Northwood University in Michigan, Wilson said scouts were looking at him as either a strong-side linebacker or defensive end.

He believes defensive end is his natural position. Hall of Famer Reggie White was his favorite player growing up.

"I love playing defensive end," he said. "When I was real young, I asked my father what position I should play. He told me if you play defensive line, then you'll have a chance to make a play every play.

"You hear about how it all starts up front, I believe that 100 percent. I just always want to make an impact every play."

Wilson has made an impression on Williams.

"He can run, and that gives him an advantage on some of the guys because he does have the ability to be a fast player," Williams said. "He is still improving. To his credit, he came in and worked very hard in OTAs and the off-season program. He spent a lot of time studying what we want him to do. He has taken advantage of his opportunities."

Williams envisions Wilson in the mold of former Redskins linebacker Chris Clemons, who as a speed-rusher recorded five sacks in 2004-05 for the club.

He wants Wilson to play smarter, though.

In the Redskins' third preseason game against Baltimore, Wilson was flagged for an off-sides penalty in the second quarter. To make matters worse, the infraction occurred on third down.

Two plays later, the Ravens scored a touchdown. It's the only touchdown the Redskins' defense has allowed so far this preseason.

"That was eagerness on wanting to make a play," Williams said. "He has to slow his heartbeat down in those types of situations. We can't let those drives continue."

Wilson said he has had to give his game a makeover. He focuses on the mental side of the game, such as learning blocking schemes, and technique, such as footwork.

"There are things I'm doing that were never an issue before in my career," he said. "It was always, 'Just go make the play, make the play. Do what you do. Use your athleticism.'

"Here, [coaches are] taking that and molding that. It's fun even for me to watch. I'm calling home and telling people who think I'm a good football player, and I tell them, 'Man, I'm not that same player.' It's going to be fun watching how good I can be."

With final roster cuts due on Saturday, Sept. 1, Wilson has one last preseason game to make a final impression.

Said Williams: "He has a real important game coming up on Thursday night [against Jacksonville]. We'll see if he can play well against some of their better [offensive linemen], too."

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