ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Terrance Knighton is imposing even on a football field filled with generally large men.
What makes Washington's new 6-foot-3 and more than 350-pound nose tackle special, however, is his relative quickness for a man of his massive bulk.
''When you put him out there on first and second down, it's going to be hard to run the ball between the tackles,'' said coach Jay Gruden, whose Redskins signed Knighton to a one-year, $4.45 million contract in March. ''He takes up quite a bit of room in there. He has great hands and great get off.
''You see how big he is, but you don't realize how quick his first step is, which it really rare for a guy of his size.''
While helping Denver win an AFC championship and two AFC West titles, Knighton registered five sacks, batted down four passes, recovered a fumble and made an interception. During those same two seasons, Washington's line totaled 16.5 sacks and six passes defensed while recovering three fumbles without an interception.
Incumbent nose tackle Chris Baker knows Knighton very well. They have been close friends since they were third graders in Windsor, Connecticut, two decades ago.
''He's one of the best players in this league,'' Baker said. ''He should get more credit for the things that he's able to do, a guy who's 350 pounds and can move the way he can move. I was shocked (he was available). A player . with his skills should have signed a five-year (contract). He brings a lot of experience. He brings a lot of passion.''
And a willingness to have his weight be, not just a topic of interviews, but a focus of the humorous television commercials.
''I got to college and food was free,'' Knighton said, explaining his rapid weight gain during his four years at Temple. ''It took a lot of takes (to shoot the commercials) because they let us be ourselves. As a big man in this league, you don't get a lot of (opportunities) like that.''
On the football field, Knighton is embracing another chance.
''Another year to prove myself,' Knighton said about his one-year contract. ''I'm here for my leadership and to dominate the line of scrimmage. I played my best football during the playoff run with Denver to the Super Bowl. I couldn't be blocked.''
Notes: Last season Gruden was often critical of Robert Griffin III, whom he benched in Week 13. On Tuesday, the second-year coach was very upbeat about the fourth-year quarterback. ''You can see the progress every day . it's exciting to watch,'' Gruden said. ''You can see him starting to have confidence in the pocket and going through his progressions. . He's coming along at a good rate, playing the position with good fundamentals.''
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