CINCINNATI - Corey Washington watched the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night, but not to relive his own glory. He was checking out a couple of fellow Newberry College products trying to make it in the league with the Vikings, linebacker Edmond Robinson and tight end Brandon Bostick (he of the muffed onsides kick with the Packers in last season's NFC title game).
It was a year ago that Washington first emerged on the scene, catching the go-ahead touchdown in Canton that sparked his preseason dominance. It was the first of four touchdowns he would catch and allowed him to make the 53-man roster, even though he barely played in the regular season.
On Friday, Washington will be looking to defend his unofficial title as preseason MVP of the Giants. And this time, he's not just hoping to get on the regular-season roster. He wants to get on the field.
"This preseason will be as big for me as it was last year," he told Newsday. "I have to go out and do not just what I did last year, but more."
Washington said he was referring to his technique. Running more precise routes. Getting better separation. The finer points of being a receiver.
But he's also not ruling out another productive August. Asked if he can top last year's performance, he said: "I can, yeah."
"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm going to score four touchdowns like I did last year in the preseason," he said. "But I can play at a high level like I did."
He's off to a good start in these joint practices with the Bengals. Washington made a juggling catch in one-on-one drills Tuesday and looked sharp going against a higher caliber of defensive talent than he did last year when few of the players on the field with him late in the preseason games even stuck around in the league.
"It's better competition," he said. "I'm not with the threes anymore, I'm with the ones and twos."
Against the Bengals, that means facing off with Adam Jones or Dre Kirkpatrick.
"It's just football," he said. "It's no different except talent-wise and big names. That's the only difference."
For Washington, that doesn't seem to matter. He said he's trying to stay consistent in his approach, not be as much of a "gamer" who flashes in the spotlight but brings the same intensity to practices. But he also knows that it's the games where he'll get to make his case for a job and playing time on a team stocked with talented wide receivers.
Washington said last summer he caught the league by surprise. He was a kid from tiny Division II Newberry, undrafted, virtually unnoticed until that Hall of Fame Game performance. As the touchdowns kept coming, though, he was hearing the voices of fans calling for his place on the roster.
This year he expects a different echo.
"It probably gonna be more like 'Let this kid play' and stuff like that," Washington said.
Ideally it will be. And the Giants will as well.