Washington Redskins Training Camp: Week 3 Stock Report
While last preseason's 4-0 record is proof that you shouldn't read too much into who wins these games, there were still some encouraging signs in the Washington Redskins' preseason opener.
In new head coach Jay Gruden's debut, the most important takeaway wasn't the team's 23-6 win, but instead the development of a cast of players that had disappointed under the previous regime.
But just like there are surprise or success stories this time of year, there are also ones of failure. With the recent ouster of former fifth-round pick Brandon Jenkins, this is a plight that Redskins fans know all too well.
With that said, here is the stock report for Washington entering the third week of training camp.
Stock Up: WR Aldrick Robinson
Fighting for one of the highly coveted wideout spots on the Redskins, Aldrick Robinson had a prime opportunity to stake his claim to make the team in the preseason opener.
With both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon inactive, Robinson started the game with the first-team offense. In Washington’s 23-6 victory over the New England Patriots, Robinson tallied 45 receiving yards and three receptions, one of which went for a touchdown.
Viewed as a potential roster casualty in the aftermath of the team signing Andre Roberts and Jackson, Robinson is aware of the fact that he’ll need performances like this to remain a Redskin.
In comments he made to Todd Dybas of The Washington Times, Robinson acknowledged this:
As soon as they signed guys, I knew I had to step my game up even more. Being the guy I am, I’m always at the bottom of the list. I always got to play my way up and that’s what I’m going to try to continue to do.
Every time I get on the field it’s important. It’s a tough competition. It’s stiff. I know every time I get out there I have to take advantage of every opportunity I get.
Working with new receivers coach Ike Hilliard to become a better all-around receiver, according to Stephen Czarda of Redskins.com, Robinson's stock will continue to soar from here.
Stock Down: WR Leonard Hankerson
You may have heard the mantra within NFL circles that starters don't lose their job to injuries—although, you shouldn't tell that to quarterback Alex Smith. Well, for backups, the opposite is true. They lose their roster spots.
Still saddled on Washington's physically unable to perform list, Leonard Hankerson may soon fall to this fate.
Despite the fact that he brings a quality no other Washington receiver possesses—size—the team's retooling at receiver has put the 6'2" Hankerson on the cusp of being cut.
Relegated to rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, Hankerson can only watch as his competition—namely Ryan Grant, Robinson and Santana Moss—aims to take his spot.
Although he's relayed to Mike Jones of The Washington Post that his knee is improving, the time he's already lost, in addition to the rust he'll have to knock off, makes it unlikely that he can earn a roster spot outright.
With injuries to his competitors or an Adrian Peterson-like recovery his best options to make the team, Hankerson's stock is on a downward trajectory.
Stock Up: Washington's Defense
Maligned and pointed to as the main cause of the team's dismal 2013 season, Washington's defense has nowhere to go but up in 2014.
Even with that said, the defense's performance in the first preseason game was startling.
Although Tom Brady and a host of other starters didn't suit up for this contest, the defense's performance against Ryan Mallett was noteworthy. With analysts like Mike Mayock raving about his qualifications to be a starting quarterback, via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Mallett had the talent to challenge Washington's defense.
Minus both of their marquee signees, Jason Hatcher and Ryan Clark, the Redskins held the Patriots scoreless in the first half. Mallett only completed five of 12 passes for 55 yards.
Most encouraging of all, though, was the dominance of the team's defensive front. Making only subtle changes to its secondary, any improvement on defense will be a direct result of Washington's front seven.
With the pressure of this unit, Washington held New England to just 63 rushing yards and, with the exception of one pass to Brian Tyms, limited the Pats' aerial attack to short gains.
Already toting a litany of weapons on offense, it won't take a dominant defensive performance like this for Washington to win games in 2014. But if the Redskins, even if it's just in spurts, can dial up this type of pressure, the team will be well positioned to win a wide-open NFC East.
Stock Down: RB Chris Thompson
Targeted in the 2013 NFL draft by the Redskins because of his game-breaking speed, Chris Thompson's injuries have long stood in the way of him showcasing this talent.
Marred by injury as far back as his collegiate days at Florida State, Thompson saw his inaugural NFL season end prematurely because of a shoulder injury.
Now, fighting with the likes of Lache Seastrunk, Evan Royster and Silas Redd to make the team, Thompson's durability issues have again surfaced.
Already coming off of a subpar showing in Washington's preseason opener, five yards on four carries, Thompson is danger of missing the team's second preseason game because of an ankle injury, according to CBS DC's Brian McNally.
Although this is an injury Gruden deemed minor, via McNally, there comes a point when you have to question if Thompson can ever remain healthy.
In comments he made to Mike Jones of The Washington Post, Gruden relayed his feelings on Thompson's absence:
It’s disappointing. It’s unfortunate for him because he was progressing very well, and he needs the reps to do what we’re going to ask him to do on game day, and if he’s not available to get these reps, that’s going to hurt his progress. But injuries happen, and unfortunately, for him, it seems like more often than not. He’s got to figure out how to stay healthy.
Considering the fact that Washington recently drafted a similar player in Seastrunk, Thompson's injury only adds to the likelihood that he won't make the team.
Stock Up: DL Jarvis Jenkins
Set back by injury and suspension, Jarvis Jenkins hasn't lived up to the billing of a second-round pick.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, though, Jenkins' financial future mandates that he delivers on his vast potential.
While his odds of doing so looked slim initially, especially with Hatcher's addition, Jenkins has risen to the challenge.
Taking advantage of the extra snaps that injuries to Stephen Bowen and Hatcher have afforded him, Jenkins' play has drawn the attention of his head coach.
In comments he made to CSNWashington.com's Rich Tandler, Gruden discussed Jenkins' progress:
I think he’s done a good job. I think really he’s improved his pass rush considerably, just that I’ve seen since I’ve been here. He’s done a really good job of understanding pass rush angles and getting push in the pocket and still playing the run, so Jarvis has been doing a very good job. [Defensive Line Coach] Jacob [Burney] and [Outside Linebackers] Coach [Brian] Baker, you can see the effect that they’ve had on him as far as not just playing around but getting upfield and working his hands, getting back to the quarterback and the stunts and all that good stuff. Jarvis has done well.
Although he didn't leave the preseason opener with any tangible statistics, with Jenkins both commanding and defeating double-teams on occasion, Washington's pass-rushers were able to harass Mallett.
His performance to date may not translate into a starting role for Washington. At the very least, though, Jenkins' play has earned him a spot in the team's defensive line rotation for the 2014 season.
Stock Down: K Kai Forbath
In a battle with rookie Zach Hocker for the kicking job, competition hasn’t brought the best out of Kai Forbath.
With Hocker’s arrival due in large part to Forbath’s lack of leg strength, there’s an inordinate amount of pressure on Forbath every kickoff and long-distance field-goal attempt.
Faced with the opportunity to squelch these concerns against the Patriots, Forbath flunked both aspects. Forbath put one kickoff out of bounds and missed short on a 46-yard attempt.
Even on shorter attempts, his comfort zone, Forbath cracked. Although he successfully converted his second chance, Forbath initially missed a 34-yard attempt that was wiped out by a delay-of-game penalty.
Although Gruden reiterated to ESPN’s John Keim that a decision wouldn’t be made until after the final preseason game, Forbath’s odds of winning the job have certainly dropped from the outset of camp.
Stock Up: S Bacarri Rambo
Much like Robinson, injuries provided Bacarri Rambo a chance to showcase the improvements he's made from last season. With Ryan Clark sidelined with a hamstring injury, Rambo was in the starting lineup versus New England.
In his film review of the team's first game, ESPN's John Keim gave Rambo a relatively positive review for his performance:
Bacarri Rambo was more competitive and aggressive than a year ago. This needs to continue, but it was a good start. I liked what he did on a couple plays in particular. On a second-quarter run the receiver came out to block him. He launched into the receiver, keeping his eyes on the ball carrier. He shed the block and helped on the play. Later, Rambo shed another block from the same receiver (Brandon LaFell) and tripped up the runner. Need to see more from him, but it was a stronger start than last summer.
While citing the need for him to improve as a tackler, Gruden also praised Rambo for what he's seen from him in camp, via CSNWashington.com's Tarik El-Bashir.
"He’s got great ball skills. He’s got a good feel for the position. He’s playing with a little more confidence, which helps, so hopefully he can bring along the tackling with the [other] strides he’s made,” Gruden said.
Squarely on the roster bubble at the outset of camp, Rambo's performance to date and his standing as the team's backup free safety have his stock on the rise.
Stock Down: S Phillip Thomas
Factor in the season-ending Lisfranc injury he suffered last preseason and the injuries he suffered at Fresno State, and Thomas' durability is a cause for concern.
While stressing that Thomas needs to be 100 percent before returning to action, Gruden acknowledged to Jones that at some point, the team needs to see what Thomas can do.
With Brandon Meriweather on a one-year deal, Thomas only has the 2014 season to show that he's the rightful player to replace him. Spending the majority of his time on the injury report, Thomas thus far is giving the team ample reason to look elsewhere for its long-term answer at safety.
Being that he was viewed as a starter by management just last season, this development has Thomas' stock pointing down.