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Kevin Barnes expects much more of himself in 2010

Several Redskins recently have expressed a sense of immediacy about the 2010 campaign, with offseason workouts scheduled to begin on Monday. New coach Mike Shanahan has repeatedly emphasized the importance of his offseason program, and the chance for players to begin impressing the new staff begins with these voluntary training sessions.

Second-year cornerback Kevin Barnes realizes this. I caught up with him yesterday at the University of Maryland’s Pro Day, and we talked about his expectations for his second year in the NFL.

“It’s basically my rookie year all over again [because of the new coaching staff],” he said. “But there’s a lot of people trying to prove themselves. Everybody has just as much to win and lose as me.

“I’ve put a lot of responsibility on myself this year. Last year I kind of went in, I’m a rookie, I had a lot of vets on top of me and I wasn’t sure what the coaches would expect. I knew they weren’t going to expect me to come in and start right away. This year I can’t go in with that mentality. I’ve got to go in expecting that they want to put me in right away and that I’m the man, and I’ve just got to prove that.”

Barnes, a third-round pick, ascended the cornerback depth chart one slot by default last week after the Redskins released veteran Fred Smoot. You probably have to consider him the fourth cornerback on the roster right now, behind DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers and Justin Tryon.

Tryon carved himself a niche as a slot corner, and Barnes doesn’t fit that mold right now. However, if Hall or Rogers were to go down on the outside, Barnes might be a better fit than Tryon.

Barnes, however, doesn’t see Smoot’s departure as any sort of improved opportunity for him to earn playing time.

“I love Smoot. I love everybody who was there, but I can’t really go in thinking, OK, just because this guy is here I don’t have a shot,” he said. “I’ve got to go in there and prepare like this is my time now and whoever wants to follow me, follow me. But I’m still a level-headed young guy. I realize I’ve got to pay my dues, so, you know, follow any positive veterans’ leadership.”

Barnes had two tackles in limited action as a rookie, mostly on special teams. He played corner in Washington’s loss at Philadelphia after some injuries forced him into action.

Of course, his rookie year is best remembered for the punt that deflected off him against the Saints in Week 12, but I digress.

“The best thing I did last year is learn how to practice,” Barnes said. “I went out there every day even though I wasn’t sure I was going to play that Sunday and I dominated every day of practice and gave the coaches a fit. That really built my confidence, so once I really got in there, I made a few things happen. I just know that I’m really capable of playing at that level now.”

What are your thoughts about Barnes? With Rogers set to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, this figures to be an important grooming year for him.