Even before the draft, it appeared that Billy McMullen was training camp fodder for the Washington Redskins. In four NFL seasons, the former Virginia Cavalier has caught just 45 passes. He managed just 29 in three seasons in the pass-happy Eagles offense before catching 16 last year for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Redskins signed him to get a big receiver in the fold, but after they drafted the 6-4 Malcolm Kelly and the 6-2 Devin Thomas in the second round, McMullen's 6-4 frame didn't look so imposing. Even absent the draftees, it appeared that the Anthony Mix, a second-year player who appeared to be six feet, five inches of red zone potential, was head and shoulders over McMullen despite his height advantage of just one inch.
After three weeks of training camp and two preseason games, the picture is starting to change. Thomas, Kelly, and Mix have been sidelined with an assortment of ailments. McMullen has been available for every practice and for as many game snaps as they will let him take.
He has made the most of those chances.
Against the Colts he had just one catch, but it was a beauty. On a third and seven play from the Washington 29, Colt Brennan arched a pass on which McMullen made a nifty over-the-shoulder grab that was good for 34 yards.
On Saturday against the Bills, McMullen was the game's leading receiver with six catches for 55 yards. After a couple of grabs he showed some nice run-after-catch ability as he turned upfield with authority.
Mix, meanwhile, had one catch for seven yards last night after missing the Hall of Fame game with a hamstring injury. The injury but bit him again as he left the game after the second-half kickoff after teammate Nemo Broughton clipped him in the ribs while both were making the tackle. While X-rays were negative for any fractures, the missed time hurt Mix more than will the bruised rib cage.
Kelly and Thomas, despite their absence from practice and games, are in no danger of getting cut. Mix, however, has gone from being a fairly sure bet to make the final 53-man roster to being squarely on the bubble. It looks like it will come down to Mix vs. McMullen for the final receiver spot if the Redskins, as expected, keep six.
If all other factors are equal, the Redskins likely would stick with Mix, who is three years younger than McMullen. But the main, overriding aspect that will determine who grabs that last receiver roster spot is production, both in games and on the practice field.
So far, McMullen has been productive and Mix has not.
Still, McMullen would be well advised to keep renting in the DC area and not buy just yet. Assuming that the rib injury is just a minor setback, Mix still has a few weeks to make his case. He had better make the most of that opportunity.
Billy McMullen has made the most of his.