6 Players Who Shined in Preseason but Won't Make 53-Man Roster
It is a tense time for fringe players and unheralded youngsters. Positive performances in preseason action provide no guarantee of securing that coveted spot on the roster.
Now that the NFL exhibition season is drawing to a close, teams are beginning to decide who will make the final roster.
Crowded positional groups and the need for front office and coaching staffs to justify significant fiscal investment in veteran talent, are the two chief factors that put lesser known players at risk.
The final cuts will be tough for the players who have pushed themselves to the limit in preseason. Teams will be forced into unpopular decisions by the practical and financial realities of finalising preparations for the new season.
Here are six solid preseason performers who will not be rewarded for their efforts.
6. Curtis Painter, Quarterback, Indianpolis Colts
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Despite a fine performance against the Green Bay Packers, gritty signal-caller Curtis Painter will ultimately fall short in his attempts to gain roster acceptance.
Painter's two touchdown passes against the Packers were well timed given that he faces strong competition for the backup quarterback position from Kerry Collins.
Painter may have displayed some nice touch during the Colts' narrow defeat, but veteran experience will ultimately win through.
The Colts will adopt a cautious approach given Peyton Manning's health and go with the more seasoned duo of Kerry Collins and Dan Orlovsky as the deputies to their most prized asset.
5. Chastin West, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
Young flanker Chastin West has enjoyed a solid exhibition campaign for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Third-string quarterback Graham Harrell has grabbed most of the headlines during Green Bay's preseason thanks to his gutsy playmaking efforts, but West has been one of the Packers' most consistent contributors.
He hauled in five passes for 134 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2.
Despite his fine efforts, West will struggle for a roster spot due to the Packers' strength and depth at the receiver position.
4. Bryan Walters, Wide Receiver, San Diego Chargers
The 23-year-old Cornell prospect Bryan Walters has had a quietly effective preseason for the San Diego Chargers with eight receptions, 97 yards and a touchdown.
His lone score came courtesy of a 14-yard connection with Billy Volek to seal the Chargers' late victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Against both the Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, Walters was able to average over 12 yards per reception.
The Chargers have plenty of options at wide receiver and recently added Laurent Robinson to the mix. With five veterans ahead of him, Walters will miss out on a roster spot.
3. Doug Baldwin, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner, Seattle Seahawks
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Rookie free agent return ace Doug Baldwin has enjoyed a fine preseason for the reigning NFC West champions.
The Stanford product escaped the shackles of the NFL's new kickoff rules and streaked his way to an eye-popping 105 yards for the score against the Denver Broncos in Week 3.
Baldwin added some clutch receptions in the fourth quarter to complete a sterling night's work. His big play potential has boosted his chances of making the final roster.
The main obstacle for Baldwin is the presence of veteran Leon Washington, who is an established and dynamic return man.
The Seahawks carry a lot of players at receiver as well, and if disappointing second-year pro Golden Tate begins to show signs of fulfilling his potential, the odds will be too much for Baldwin to overcome.
2. Phillip Tanner, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
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Phillip Tanner is another rookie free agent who could miss out despite some brave and determined efforts during preseason.
The aggressive runner who played his collegiate football at little known Middle Tennessee State, faces a tough challenge to secure a permanent place on the Dallas Cowboys' final roster.
Tanner is attempting to break into a crowded backfield that already features Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. In addition to the two incumbents, the Cowboys also have high hopes for third-round draft pick DeMarco Murray.
Tanner's heroics against the San Diego chargers in Week 2 could sum up his chances of avoiding the final cut.
The youngster showed tremendous hustle and desire to fight for extra yards after losing his helmet—but his great effort was in vain when the play was called back for penalty.
It's that kind of luck that will probably see Tanner losing out on a roster spot.
1. Terrence Austin, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins
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Diminutive flanker Terrence Austin has been one of the Redskins' most productive players throughout their exhibition season, but the former UCLA star still faces a difficult task to make the final roster on a rebuilding Redskins team.
Mike Shanahan has gone to great lengths to bolster his receiving options during the offseason, adding veterans Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth, and snaring Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson in the draft.
Hankerson has disappointed so far but the Redskins are still hoping for big things from the highly-touted third-round pick.
Paul and Robinson offer similar return skills to Austin, as does the electrifying Brandon Banks. Austin could find himself forced out if Shanahan is determined to make a success of his latest acquisitions.