Washington's Roster Shaping Up As Deadline Approaches
Sept. 4, 2009 was a day filled with anxious moments in Redskins Park.
The so-called "on-the-bubble" players took to the global communication network known as Twitter to alert the fans of their apprehension.
Former Missouri QB Chase Daniel tweeted that now is the "time to wait...and wait...and wait." I hear you Chase. Your position is not an enviable one.
The competition for the No. 3 spot behind starter Jason Campbell and backup Todd Collins has come down to the wire. Last year's preseason star out of Hawaii, Colt Brennan has been less than impressive in his second year wearing the burgundy and gold.
His performance in Thursday's preseason finale at Jacksonville was forgettable. He led the Skins' impressively down the field late in the second quarter only to see an errant pass towards the end zone go the opposite way for an 99-yard interception return by the opposing defense. Instead of cutting the lead to 13-7, the score was 21-0.
I know, I know it does not count right? Tell that hot mess to Colt. He certainly will care if it costs him a roster spot.
Fifty-three players make the final NFL roster, with eight suiting up on the practice squad.
"I tried to make the team tonight," said sixth-round draft pick Robert Henson also via Twitter. "I left it all out there. I love the DMV area." (referring to the D,C., Maryland, Virginia area)
Washington must cut 22 players to meet today's afternoon deadline.
Most of the team's starters became spectators for the Jaguars game so the level of intrigue of who stays and who goes looms large.
Here's a peak into some of the more closely watched battles between the haves and the have nots.
K Shaun Suisham competed with journeyman placekicker Dave Rayner for mixed results. He nailed a 48-yard field goal versus the Jaguars that could be enough to save his job for another season. However, the previous week he missed wide left on a 52-yard attempt versus New England.
Suisham made 26 field goals out of 36 attempts in 2008. His career field goal percentage is 72.2.
Verdict: Suisham wins the job, because of his locker room presence and team leadership. Teammates have nicknamed him Shaun Shazam.
Retired NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson unceremoniously wrote several years back, "Just give me the damn ball." The Washington Redskins need that kind of attitude from their much-maligned unit heading into the 2009-2010 season.
It is a virtual lock that Antwaan Randle El, Malcolm Kelly, and Devin Thomas will make the team. But who will secure the No. 2 position behind Santana Moss?
Randle El has improved his route running and has the experience to give him the edge over Kelly and Thomas. In my opinion, Randle El is best suited to be the Skins' possession receiver. On third down situations with less than six or seven yards to go, Jason Campbell could hit Randle El in the slot to keep the chains moving.
The key is for the offense to keep it simple. Let Campbell use Moss and Kelly for the deep routes.
With that being said, I love Malcolm Kelly's potential. He spent last season nursing sore knees after having an operation to clean out loose cartilage. Kelly needs to use his big frame as a weapon versus the smaller defensive backs who will oppose him.
Management has a tough decision here if they are judging on stats alone. Kelly finished the preaseason with seven catches for 69 yards. Thomas finished with seven catches for 67 yards.
Verdict: Kelly grabs the No. 2 spot and the coaches rotate in Randle El, Thomas, and this preseason's most consistent performer Marko Mitchell in the No. 3 spot.
The biggest concern for the Redskins coming into the offseason was the health of the starting offensive line. Major injuries curtailed what was a promising start to last season. The Skins' went 6-2 through the first eight games. Jason Campbell looked comfortable in the pocket, and threw no interceptions.
And then the injury bug bit the team hard. RT Stephon Heyer and RG Randy Thomas nursed shoulder injuries and missed significant playing time.
Heyer came into camp as an undrafted rookie out of Maryland. He promptly supplanted Jon Jansen (currenlty in Detroit) as the team's starting right tackle.
Then Heyer went down, and was replaced by Jansen.
Jansen showed flashes of his former self, but had problems pass blocking. His footwork and stamina were called into question in the local media.
Things went from good to bad in a hurry. The Skins' finished 2-6 in the last eight games of the season ,and missed the playoffs for the third time in five years.
Washington went out and picked up a familiar face to bolster the left side of the offensive line. LT Derrick Dockery returned to D.C. after a three-year stint in Buffalo. The front four gave up 38 sacks last year.
Protecting the quarterback's blind side is the hardest job on the field period. To be successfull, Campbell has got to have the time to find open receivers.
The team also brought in former first-round pick Mike Williams to increase depth and add some girth to the unit. Williams was pushing the scales at 430lbs, and ate himself out of the league when the Skins' front office gave him a call.
Now he is 100 lbs lighter and hopes to earn the respect of the fans and his teammates one snap at a time. Coach Zorn offered this upbeat statement about Williams' performance.
"He made it compelling for him to be a part of this football team."
Verdict: Williams replaces Pete Kendall (not re-signed) and works primarily as a second-string tackle for the Skins.'
Running backs in Washington have done well in the past, so it is fun to see two backs duke it out for playing time behind Pro Bowl runner, Clinton Portis.
Portis rushed for 1487 yards last season, and needn't worry about job security in 2010. It's Ladell Betts that should be looking over his shoulder at Marcus Mason and Anthony Alridge.
Mason is this preseason's leading rusher with 28 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. He missed most of the Jacksonville game with sore ribs. Coach Zorn likes his toughness saying, "He's very willing to strike a blow."
Both Mason and Alridge can provide the change-of-pace running that Betts has done in previous years, Both are speedy, versatile backs that can fill in on special teams...something that Betts has never done consistently. Rock Cartwright has a pulled quad muscle and has not seen a lot of action as of late.
The writing is on the wall for Mason and Alridge. One will make the final roster and one will not.
Verdict: Mason beats out Alridge (first quarter fumble in the Jacksonville game hurts him in the end) and Alridge is relegated to the practice squad.
By 4:00 pm, we will find out which guys will travel to the Meadowlands to face the New York Football Giants on Sept. 13.
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