In Saturday’s win over the Buffalo Bills, the Redskins showed a little more of the personality of their head coach. During one drive in the first quarter, the persistence and resilience that helped define Jim Zorn as a player could be seen in full view.
Starting quarterback Jason Campbell (played two series, finishing seven of 10 for 71 yards with no interceptions) made a point of mentioning the team's persistence during interviews and in his postgame news conference.
The Redskins committed two penalties on the drive. Each of which would have killed the drive for several teams, including the Redskins of last season.
But as Campbell pointed out, the Redskins overcame the penalties and continued the drive, which culminated in a Clinton Portis one-yard run for a touchdown on 4th-and-goal.
Defensive coordinator Greg Blache also had the opportunity to show his personality. With starting defensive end Jason Taylor seeing his first game action as a Redskin, Blache was aggressive at the point of attack, which was all the more impressive considering the Redskins are still shorthanded at free safety.
So much so that veteran cornerback Shawn Springs was inserted into the position. Third-year player Leigh Torrence started opposite veteran Fred Smoot at cornerback for Springs.
This particular situation deserves further thought.
The Redskins have shown some concern over depth at free safety. Signing Patrick Ghee and Justin Hamilton, first and second-year players respectively, the Redskins continue to work through players at the position.
Second-year standout LaRon Landry will start the regular season at free safety, but the Redskins are obviously concerned about his primary backup. There are options for Blache, but they are thin at safety when one considers experience. This will continue to be a hot spot for competition, and we will watch it closely.
Another hot spot for the defense is depth at cornerback. Torrence seems to have a leg up here, but rookies Matteral Richardson and Justin Tryon have shown some ability.
With Byron Westbrook (who spent last season on the practice squad as rookie) and fellow second-year man Cedrick Holt vying for the same positions, this is a very competitive roster battle.
With fourth-year player Carlos Rogers slated to start at corner opposite Springs, Rogers’ recovery from major knee-surgery is a major concern, making depth at cornerback particularly important.
Depth at linebacker is another key factor for the Redskins. With injuries and age at linebacker, the Redskins are looking not just for depth, but for future starters.
Second-year player Matt Sinclair seems to be on the fast track to a roster spot. Second-year man H.B. Blades is already slated to be the primary backup to longtime veteran middle linebacker London Fletcher, leaving a need for both outside linebacker positions.
Veteran Khary Campbell, who is also a standout on special teams, will likely take one spot. Recently signed Alfred Finch, who has been notable during both preseason games, seems to have a good nose for the ball and could be on pace for a roster spot as well.
Rookie Curtis Gatewood and third-year player Ryan Wallace will need strong showings on special teams to earn a roster spot.
On offense, it seems that the Redskins' staff is being challenged by several players making the case for themselves. Second-year running back Marcus Mason is trying to convince the coaches that he deserves the coveted fifth spot in the offensive backfield.
That spot is normally held by a backup fullback (veteran Mike Sellars is the starting FB), Mason has run hard and with authority and is making a case for himself to be one of the final 53 on this roster.
The other hot spot on offense is wide receiver. There are likely five spots already taken. Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, James Thrash, and rookies Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly are virtually guaranteed roster spots. Leaving the possibility that the Redskins will keep a sixth wideout.
With so many players recovering from injury, the Redskins face some very difficult roster decisions. Second-year man Anthony Mix appeared to be the leading candidate for the sixth receiver, but fourth-year player Billy McMullen has been impressive at every given opportunity.
Being hampered by injuries has also not helped Mix in his efforts, as he has missed significant practice time and the opportunity to play in the preseason, seeing action for only about a quarter of play.
Rookie Horace Gant and second-year player Maurice Mann have also shown well, but they seem to be headed for the practice squad, if they make the final cut at all.
Also on offense, the backup linemen positions are largely up for grabs. Veterans Todd Wade and Jason Fabini seem assured roster spots. Second-year tackle Stephon Heyer proved he can play last year, seeing significant action as a rookie in 2007. Heyer is also assured a roster spot.
Rookie third-round draft pick Chad Rinehart has been impressive in camp, has played well during his playing time in the preseason, and has likely also locked up a backup position.
That leaves only the potential for one more lineman on the active roster. In Saturday’s game against the Bills, several linemen stood out, attempting to convince the Redskins’ staff that they are worth keeping.
Rookie Andrew Crummey, second-year player Tavares Washington, and fourth-year player Justin Geisinger all played well and are working hard to earn the right stay a Redskin.
Each of these decisions is going to be critical for the Redskins.
Depth is always a key for every team, but for the Redskins, age along the offensive line, injuries at multiple positions, and several young players trying to show they belong in the NFL make it that much more important, and difficult, for the Redskins.
Next week, the Redskins travel to New York to take on the Jets in the Redskins' third preseason game. The Jets will see Brett Favre in a Jets uniform for the first time as Jets’ head coach Eric Mangini has stated that Favre will start the game.
I am looking forward to solidifying the Redskins' roster this week. With roster cuts pending, it’s put-up-or-shut-up time for players vying for roster spots.