With Big Performances from Royster and Helu, Hightower Could Be Odd Man Out

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 30, 2012

August 29, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu Jr. (29) dives into the end zone for a touchdown against theTampa Bay Buccaneers  in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 30-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

It was a good night for a lot of Washington Redskins players as the team pummeled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason finale. That does not apply to Tim Hightower.

The only veteran back on the Redskins' roster sat and watched as Evan Royster and Roy Helu put on superb performances in their final attempts to gain Week 1 reps out of the backfield. Hightower can't stay healthy, and now it looks as though he's gotten hurt at the worst possible time.

Alfred Morris is already locked in, maybe even as a starter. He didn't play Wednesday because he didn't have to. Royster and Helu are both coming off of rookie great rookie seasons, but both have lacked consistency as well as that all-important ability to stay on the field.

But against the Bucs, Helu had 124 yards on 17 touches while Royster had 59 on 12. Helu also scored twice and had three separate 15-yard gains. It might have been a job-saving effort.

And that means that, come cuts on Friday, Hightower could be victimized. The 'Skins look as though they have three high ceilings with Morris, Helu and Royster, whereas they know what they're getting from Hightower. That can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing.

All that should matter to Redskins fans is that their running game appears to be in super shape.

A few more thoughts on Washington's final preseason game:


Richard Crawford Deserves a Shot Early

The rookie cornerback continues to perform at a remarkably high level. Yes, he was going up against reserves again Wednesday night, but Crawford was great in coverage and registered another interception. 

The rookie seventh-round pick out of SMU might be a better option than Cedric Griffin, who has struggled this month, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him getting nickel reps by the time 2012 wraps up. 

It would be a shame, though, if the 'Skins had something special here and it was to take months or more to discover that in real-game action. They have to get Crawford some legitimate reps starting in Week 1.


Brandon Banks Might Have Secured the Final Wide Receiver Spot

It's been an up-and-down preseason for Banks, but the return specialist showed his worth as an offensive contributor with two plays producing 40-plus yards against the Bucs. That 47-yard reception and 43-yard reverse pickup might have been just enough to give Banks the fifth wide receiver spot, just ahead of Dezmon Briscoe, Aldrick Robinson and Anthony Armstrong.

Banks did have a drop, but it was still a positive performance, and none of his competitors fared better.

Mike Shanahan has said that he needs Banks to make the team as a wideout. Briscoe, Robinson and Armstrong haven't been much better in that area, so when you consider Banks' ability as a return man, he should have this wrapped up, regardless of how many receivers the 'Skins keep.


It'll Be a Shame If Bryan Kehl Doesn't Make the Roster

The 28-year-old is somewhat of a journeyman, but he's proven this preseason that he has a nose for the ball. He has to get better at securing interceptions, but the key is that he's sniffing them out. And Wednesday night, he delivered with two big plays—a pick and a sack—as well as six tackles. He took the interception back 43 yards.

The problem is that the Redskins aren't likely to keep five inside linebackers. Kehl has been better than Keenan Robinson, but Robinson is a project rookie and a fourth-round pick. I wonder if the 'Skins might consider parting ways with Lorenzo Alexander.