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Old 08-05-2005, 08:29 AM   #1
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DP: Blocking key for Cooley, others

Blocking key for Cooley, others
By Joe Crisp
Special to The Daily Progress
Friday, August 5, 2005

ASHBURN - Last season, the Redskins struggled mightily to open up holes for star running back Clinton Portis. So if you ask Redskin tight ends coach Rennie Simmons where his charges need to make the most improvement, his answer is a quick one.

“Right now, we need to improve on our run-blocking,” Simmons said.

Simmons is looking for a few strong blockers from his group of players, which includes H-backs Chris Cooley, Mike Sellers and Manuel White, and tight ends Robert Royal, William Palmer, Billy Baber and Brian Kozlowski. Baber played for Western Albemarle High School and the University of Virginia.

“When we’re looking at a tight end, number one, they’ve got to have the strength,” Simmons said. “Toughness and strength. [Cooley] shows a lot of strength, even though he’s labeled as an ‘H’ back, and he’s doing a really good job in the passing game, but he’s as good a blocker. He’s doing a real good job blocking. I think if he continues to improve on that, he’s one of those guys that could stay in there on all packages.”

Due to his prowess as a receiver, the media often compares Cooley to one of Simmons’ former protégés - Clint Didier. Didier led Redskins tight ends in receiving four straight years (‘84-’87) during the Redskins’ reign as one of the top offenses of the 1980s.

However, Didier was a lankier tight end not particularly well-known for his blocking ability - at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he was built more like an overgrown wide receiver - whereas Cooley (6-3, 250) brings a sturdier, more powerful build, better suited for battling in the trenches of the running game if the play design calls for it.

Asked whether Cooley’s success last season has changed the way the coaching staff looks at the tight end position in their offense, Simmons says Cooley’s emergence wasn’t unexpected.

“It wasn’t a big surprise for us,” Simmons said. “We drafted him and we thought he was a heck of a player. We knew we needed some help there at the ‘H’ position. He comes in and works hard and we think he’s improving. He makes good decisions in the passing game, he’s got good strength in the running game. He can play a dual role: he can be a tight end, he can be an ‘H’. If he continues to develop he may not come off the field.”

Cooley is a bit of an exception in that respect. The other players on the roster are more defined in their roles.

“Robert basically can play ‘Y’ end,” Simmons said. “Billy’s mostly just an ‘H’ back. His strength lies in the passing game, but he’s really got to work on the running game.

“Robert does well in both areas. He’s just got to get a little stronger. He fights the weight thing. He’s pretty lean right now.”

The Redskins drafted another player this year, Manuel White Jr., out of UCLA, to play H-back in Gibbs’s offense, but since he played as a fullback in college, he faces a somewhat difficult transition to his new role.

“If you’re a fullback, you’re not really used to being on the line of scrimmage, blocking someone right on your nose,” Simmons said. “You get a running start at them, and you have to make adjustments from the backfield. That’s what Manuel White’s facing right now, because he’s been a guy out of the backfield at UCLA - and he’s a good running back also - so his whole thing right now is learning how to line up in a three-point stance or two-point stance and blocking somebody at the line of scrimmage, and understanding the [pass] protections and all the line calls in the running game. That takes a lot of time.”

Asked how the enhancement of the overall speed of the wide receiving corps with the additions of blazers Santana Moss and David Patten would affect the role of the tight end in Gibbs’s re-vamped offense, Simmons said it could free up the tight ends to make more plays.

“Your tight end becomes very valuable, especially if you’re one-dimensional - if you’ve got one [good] receiver - your tight end becomes a big factor,” Simmons said. “If you’ve got two good receivers, most of the time your tight end gets singled up or isolated on linebackers, so he becomes even more of a viable factor, or in our case, the H-back.

“The theory that we go by is that the H-back is really our tight end down the field. If you’ve got three wide receivers going down the field [in a two-tight end set], our H-back is the tight end going down the field, and our ‘Y’ tight end is really the blocker or fullback. That’s how we look at it in the passing game.”

But that still leaves open the question of whether these tight ends are up to the task of helping Clinton Portis find more room to run this season. “In the running game, hopefully we can get two guys out there that can block, and that just adds to our offense when we can go in either direction,” Simmons said. “When you can line up with a tight end on both sides, that makes it tough [to defend.”

This story can be found at: http://www.dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP%2FMGArticle%2FCDP_BasicArti cle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031784265839&path=!sports
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Old 08-05-2005, 11:09 PM   #2
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Re: DP: Blocking key for Cooley, others

Cooley, Cooley, Cooley..........glad to hear he is doing well..........
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