It was hard to miss offensive linemen Mark Wilson and Jim Molinaro at the Redskins' most recent mini-camp, April 30-May 2 at Redskins Park. Both Wilson and Molinaro, two of the four players to make up the Redskins' 2004 draft class, stand an elongated 6-foot-6.
In the not-to-distant future, Wilson, drafted in the fifth round out of California, and Molinaro, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame, hope to stand out for their play as well as for their size.
Molinaro says that for him the key during his first exposure to NFL talent was to be able to deal with the speed of the game.
"More than anything, that's the big challenge especially when you go 14 or 15 plays in a row, from right to left," he added. "You have to start to think faster."
The Bethlehem, Pa., native said it was a great honor to be drafted by a team whose offensive line coach is Joe Bugel, one of the top position coaches in NFL history.
Said Molinaro: "It's a tremendous honor to play for him. We've all heard about his reputation; he's a great coach. I've learned so much already from him."
Molinaro said he was a bit shellshocked at his first NFL mini-camp, which is quite an understandable response from any new draft pick.
At the same time, he says he expects to make progress in upcoming coaching sessions and mini-camps in preparation for the opening of training camp in late July.
In terms of his own initiation into the NFL, Wilson said things basically went according to plan.
"I heard horror stories about veterans and rookies and I was a little worried about that," he admitted. "But I came in, and everyone was great. They helped me out with the play calls and helped me along."
Wilson, from San Jose, Calif., said the workload regarding his first NFL mini-camp seemed manageable, although there was an element of learning on the job attached to the whole experience.
"They gave us the playbook the first day we got here, we studied the plays and then the first day we went out and ran them," he said. "There was no explanation, you just look at the pictures and figure out the rules yourself. We go through a walk-through in the morning, and then in the afternoon practice you need to know it."
What Wilson was able to take away from his first practices as a Redskin is this: If you plan to compete for an NFL job, you had better be in tip-top shape, even if it's only early May and the real games are still months away.
"You go out there 14 or 15 plays in a row," said Wilson, "it's a lot faster than in college."
The 151st overall pick this year, Wilson played at 314 pounds at Cal, where he started all 48 games during his four years. Head coach Joe Gibbs has said that Wilson's durability is one of the factors that made him appealing to the Redskins.
Molinaro, drafted 180th overall, is a 309-pounder who played both guard and tackle on Notre Dame's offensive line. Early in his career for the Fighting Irish, he played defensive end.
Of course, both young offensive line prospects are a long way away from establishing themselves as NFL players. But for the moment, at least they can say they managed to make it through their first mini-camp unscathed, upbeat and hopeful.