The Washington Redskins have announced, per the Washington Post's Mark Maske, that fourth-string quarterback Pat White will start and play all four quarters of the team's final preseason game Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But don't take that as an indication that White has a chance to crack the roster.
With Robert Griffin III being held out of preseason action as he prepares for a Week 1 return from offseason knee surgery, per reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, and backup Kirk Cousins dealing with a sprained foot, the 'Skins can't afford to take any chances 10 days before the regular-season opener.
And with Griffin and Cousins less than 100 percent, third-stringer Rex Grossman gains considerable value as an insurance policy. Even playing him isn't worth the potential injury risk at this point, which is why the only other quarterback on the roster is being thrown to whatever wolves will be in Tampa Thursday.
Grossman is the only quarterback on the depth chart with at least a full season worth of starts under his belt. Griffin's knee hasn't been tested enough for anyone to know with certainty what will happen against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, Sept. 9, and Cousins is just being eased back into practice now.
Against backups and surrounded by more backups, there's a limit regarding what White will be able to do to alter his destiny Thursday night, at least in terms of his status with the Redskins. Those three quarterbacks are probably locked in place—the 'Skins won't likely consider keeping four—and White is not eligible for the practice squad.
This could, however, be a final audition for the rest of the league. With the read-option gaining in popularity, White-type quarterbacks are more in demand now than ever. Guys like White and Dennis Dixon and Vince Young are suddenly a lot more employable than they were a year or two ago.
Of course, as much as Mike Shanahan and Co. would certainly like to see White succeed somewhere, they're hoping for a good performance simply so that they can gain a little more peace of mind in case they have to flash the Pat White bat symbol at some point in the near or not-so-distant future.
There's might not be any room for the guy on the 53-man roster, and he might not be eligible for the practice squad, but that doesn't mean he can't be on Washington's proverbial speed dial (because, really, who still uses speed dial?).
The former second-round pick hasn't been lighting up stats sheets this preseason, but he's done enough thus far to earn the opportunity to be the Redskins', um, backup backup plan if things really hit the fan. He's looked relatively comfortable running the read-option and has picked up 6.9 yards per carry as a rusher.
There were concerns regarding White's accuracy from the get-go, and his completion percentage of 53.6 would seem to indicate that's been a problem. It hasn't. Five of the 28 passes he has thrown this preseason have been dropped, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Turn those into completions and he's above 70 percent in that area.
The point is that despite his supporting cast and regardless of his opponents, White has managed to look like an NFL-caliber backup this month. If he can continue to do so or can even take another step forward Thursday night, he could plant the seed for an opportunity to pinch hit if or when an opportunity arises.
The only natural risk for the Redskins is that if White plays too well against the Bucs, he might not linger long on the free-agent market this fall.