Highlighting Washington Redskins' Best Preseason Performers so Far
A time of year when starters are limited to brief cameo appearances, the NFL's preseason serves as an open audition for backups to showcase their skills.
While the play of some warrants a meaningful role when the real games begin, for the most part, a team's top preseason performers are playing to be a fixture on future teams.
For the Washington Redskins, a veteran-laden team with few vacancies in the starting lineup, this is the case.
With that said, here are the Redskins' best preseason performers so far.
WR Aldrick Robinson
Facing a mandate to deliver on his vast potential or be cut, Aldrick Robinson has responded well to such pressure.
Starting in place of an injured DeSean Jackson, Robinson registered three catches, 45 yards and one touchdown in Washington's 23-6 victory over the New England Patriots. And if not for a late throw from Robert Griffin III on the team's opening drive, Robinson would've had two touchdowns to his name.
Ultimately, though, it's not Robinson's in-game production that registers him as one of the Redskins' top preseason performers.
Already a renowned deep threat, Robinson has made strides to become a better all-around receiver in practice. Ask Robinson, as Andrew Walker of Redskins.com did, and he'll tell you his performance vs. the Pats speaks to that.
“You want to be known as an all-around receiver. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony in this league,” he said. “As you can see tonight, I can run routes and catch the ball.”
While his improved play won't net him serious snaps once the regular season begins—Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts are entrenched atop the team's depth chart—it, at the very least, extends his stay in Washington for another season.
WR Ryan Grant
His selection in the NFL draft was somewhat of a head-scratching move at the time—in light of the logjam Washington had at wideout—but Ryan Grant has validated this pick with his play in the preseason.
Grant's physical skill set won't jump off the screen at you. Only 6'0" and with middling speed, it's the reason he lasted until the fifth round, after all. Even with that said, it hasn't stopped his teammates and coaches from raving about the rookie from Tulane.
Speaking with Stephen Czarda of Redskins.com, Robinson namedropped Grant while dishing on the contentious battle ongoing at receiver:
Look at the competition. You've got guys out here playing ball right now, they're making plays. You've got rookies coming in looking like two-year, three-year pros. You've got Ryan Grant, he's looking like he a four-year like I have you know.
In comments he made to Brandon Parker of The Washington Post, head coach Jay Gruden also heaped praise on Grant.
“Every rookie handles [their first training camp] differently. Some rookies are basket cases, some are cool, calm and collected. Ryan Grant looks like he’s been here for 10 years. He’s handled it perfectly," he said.
Like Robinson, Grant too won't see much playing time in 2014. Still, with the lack of size Washington has at wideout, the bolstered depth the team now has could come into play if injury derails any of the top receivers.
RB Lache Seastrunk
While he's had his blips in practice, the position Lache Seastrunk plays dictates more attention be paid to his play in live games.
With contact limited in practices and scrimmages, it's games that showcase a running back's ability to finish runs and make defenders miss.
Rushing for 63 yards on 12 carries vs. the Patriots, Seastrunk's play may have changed his outlook for the 2014 season. Seemingly destined for the practice squad previous to game action, the combination of Chris Thompson's injury and his play have opened up the possibility that he makes the team, as CSN's Rob Carlin notes:
Although he still needs to improve as a receiver and in pass protection—what rookie back doesn't?—his speed could add another dimension to Washington's offense, even if it's just in spurts. Looking at the team's stable of backs, he's the only player with that class of speed. This was a sentiment Brian McNally of 106.7 The Fan acknowledged:
Lache Seastrunk, #Redskins 6th round pick, is so fast even a burner like Chris Thompson says he's at "another level." Getting his chance now— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) August 8, 2014
With top backup Roy Helu's injury history, Seastrunk could fall into a role that nets him the most playing time of any of the Redskins' rookies this season.
QB Kirk Cousins
Logging lofty statistics vs. NFL journeymen and vanilla defenses, it's easy to dismiss a backup's preseason play.
In a rare exception, though, Kirk Cousins doesn't fall into this category.
Even after an up-and-down stint as Washington's starting quarterback at the end of last season, Cousins' preseason play has seemingly upped his value on the trade market, as NFL Network's Albert Breer details:
After a half of action, gotta score a win for Kirk Cousins over Ryan Mallet in the Trade Value Shootout.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 8, 2014
On the practice field, Cousins' play has also drawn attention.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, Cousins outshined Griffin in the team's joint practices with the Patriots:
One of my biggest takeaways from Patriots-Redskins joint practices was surprise that Robert Griffin III didn’t look like the best quarterback on his own team. In fact, I thought Kirk Cousins was better than him, from the perspective of running the offense, fine-tuned mechanics and how decisively the ball came out of his hand. I wondered if I was alone, and then heard the same sentiment echoed by some others in the Patriots organization.
While it's unlikely Cousins' play will evoke a quarterback controversy in Washington, it could net the team an asset via trade.
DL Jarvis Jenkins
With the compensation fellow defensive lineman Chris Baker and Jason Hatcher received this offseason, it was clear the Redskins weren't satisfied with what they've seen from Jarvis Jenkins in his first three seasons.
A former second-round pick, the only headlines Jenkins produced dealt with suspension or injury. Given a fresh slate with the ouster of Mike Shanahan, Jenkins, in the last year of his rookie deal, has capitalized on the absence of Hatcher and Stephen Bowen.
In comments he made to CSNWashington.com's Rich Tandler, Gruden touched on Jenkins' improved play:
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.
Although the box score didn't reveal his improvement—as a 3-4 defensive end, it won't always—as ESPN.com's John Keim notes, the pressure he applied vs. the Patriots led to the team's lone sack.
With the return of Hatcher, a starting role won't await Jenkins when the season starts. But with Washington building its defense around its front seven, he should have a place in the team's defensive line rotation.