In Washington Redskins' Preseason Positional Battles, Parts one and two, I broke down the roster battles taking place for the Redskins in the pre season. Here, I will review those battles and offer my take on how they shook out.
Offensively, there wasn’t much to battle for right? Not exactly. The starters are essentially determined, but there are possibilities for positional changes. At wide receiver in particular, rookies Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly could have the opportunity to crack the starting lineup via the “X” position, a spot currently held by Antwaan Randle El. But injuries are entering into the equation now. Santana Moss and Randle El solidified their standing as the starters with solid performances in their limited action. The other receivers on the roster are fighting for the third, forth, fifth, and if head coach Jim Zorn chooses to carry an extra wide out, sixth receiver position.
Thomas, Kelly, and third year player Anthony Mix are missing time in practice and in preseason games, and it will hurt each of them. Thomas and Kelly are virtually guaranteed roster spots due to their draft status, and veteran James Thrash is likely to make the cut as well, but for Mix, the injury could cost him dearly. As everyone knows, one man’s loss can be another man’s gain. Wide receivers Billy McMullen and Maurice Mann(a second year player I failed to mention in my “preview” article, my apologies Mr. Mann) took advantage of the increased opportunity for playing time. McMullen only logged one catch(a very pretty over the shoulder catch from a well throw ball from rookie QB Colt Brennan), but also seemed to handle his blocking assignments well. Mann finished the game with two catches for 28 yards and 1 touchdown, and also seemed to play well in general, despite a muffed punt and rather uneventful efforts on returns. Look for the wide receiver position to continue to be up for grabs, with Moss, Randle El, Thrash, Thomas and Kelly almost guaranteed spots, that leaves only one position to be created for another wide out. Can McMullen, Mann or Mix convince Zorn to carry an extra wide out? We’ll see won’t we?
On the offensive line, the starters are set as well, right? Well, actually, after reviewing the game tape, long time veteran Jon Jansen had a rough outing. It is expected he would be rusty from missing the past year, but he will need to play better. He gave up one sack to an inside spin move from second year Colts DE Keyunta Dawson. Second year player Stephon Heyer, slated to be the primary backup at left tackle, also had a rough outing up until he sprained his knee. Heyer was once again susceptible to the bull rush, giving up one sack in limited action. Rookie offensive lineman Chad Rinehart was solid at both guard and tackle, and seems to be solidifying his spot on the roster. Earning praise through out training camp, Rinehart earned more praise following the game with Head Coach Zorn saying he has been impressive with his ability to handle both guard and tackle positions. The offensive line in fact, played fairly well, opening holes for running backs Rock Cartwright and Marcus Mason the entire game.This bodes well for the Redskins as they have a dire need for youthful depth along the offensive line.
Neither Clinton Portis nor primary backup Ladelle Betts played in the game, so Cartwright and Mason saw plenty of action. As usual, Cartwright performed well, with 13 carries for 58 yards and a 4.5 yard average. Mason is making a name for himself, gaining 98 yards on 18 carries and a 5.4 yard average, and could well be earning the Redskins a trade offer from another club in need of a running back. Cartwright's abilties on special teams are likely to keep his position on the team safe, and the Redskins are unlikely to carry four running backs, so Mason needs to be noticed by as many other clubs as possible to get his football cereer going.
The tight end position is also pretty well set, Chris Cooley is going no where but up, and rookie Fred Davis showed well, with a team high three catches and showing some grit turning upfield to gain additional yardage after the catch. He also earned praise from Zorn for his blocking, which is always a good thing to hear for a rookie tight end already known as a pass catcher and not a blocker. Third stringer Jason Goode also had a catch and played well in general, but he has an up hill battle to make the roster.
The performance of rookie quarterback Colt Brennan received a lot of attention. Finishing the game nine of 10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns, he showed he may really belong in the NFL after all. Starter Jason Campbell also had an excellent outing against the Colt’s starting defense. Campbell was nearly perfect, with five completions in five attempts and a touchdown, he was sharp and decisive, just as he has been in training camp. Veteran backup Todd Collins was also efficient, if not spectacular, going five of six for 32 yards. No changes will take place at the quarterback position, but Brennan’s performance was a pleasant surprise. While he was fortunate on at least two throws(throws that could have been intercepted as easily completed), he showed why the Redskins were willing to take a chance on the record setting quarterback that so many said couldn’t play in the NFL.
In fact, the Redskins 2008 draft class on the whole performed very well. A fine start to the preseason, Head Coach Jim Zorn has much to work with and should there is reason for Redskin fans everywhere to be optimistic.
Look for part two where I’ll go through the defensive battles on Thursday, and a new look ahead to the home pre season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Friday.