The NFL can be a cruel mistress. For 26 Washington Redskins players, the relief of surviving Tuesday's cuts will only prove temporary as the Turk will once again make his rounds on Saturday--paying nearly three times as many visits this go around.
Thursday night's preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will prove crucial for many of them still on the bubble. The difference between a pink slip and a spot on the 53-man roster can be made on a single down.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the players who need a strong showing to be around next week.
Rookie nose tackle Chris Neild is currently behind veterans Barry Cofield and Anthony Bryant on the depth chart.
Neild should see more action tonight than in his previous three preseason games. He has three tackles thus far.
Another defensive lineman to keep an eye on is defensive tackle Doug Worthington.
Following a season-ending injury to Jarvis Jenkins, Worthington suddenly finds himself second on the Redskins depth chart at defensive end behind Adam Carriker.
He's known for his size and power, but has to prove to coaches he can get the job done.
A strong showing against the Buccaneers would go a long way in determining whether the Redskins go defensive end shopping on the waiver wire Saturday as cuts trickle in.
Still, the former Ohio State Buckeye is confident that he'll be around this year.
"I figure I'm in the thick of things with playing time this year," Worthington told me during his appearance on the JRich Report radio show this week. "It's in a scheme like I love, a 3-4. Being a big guy it's something I can get my hands on some people."
The JRich Report is co-hosted by Worthington's Ohio State teammate Jay Richardson who is a free agent defensive end after spending three seasons with the Oakland Raiders and last year with the Seattle Seahawks.
It's not just youth that's on the bubble, either.
One of the more competitive positions has been at wide receiver. The team had 11 receivers on its roster before Malcolm Kelly was waived/injured on Tuesday.
Veteran Donte Stallworth could be among the men left standing when the game of musical chairs is completed on Saturday.
Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson figure to be locks to make the roster.
The team typically carries six receivers, leaving only two spots to be had.
Rookie Terrence Austin has made a strong case to be among the Redskins 53. Not only has he proven an adequate backup to Brandon Banks in the return game, but he's also a gamer when it comes to receiving.
Coaches have routinely gushed over his play.
Speaking of Banks, a suspect knee has sidelined him for the past two preseason games. He should see action tonight against the Buccaneers, but would do well to show that burst in the return game he's known for. He will not make it as a wide receiver on this squad.
If you're comparing the two, Austin is the more well rounded player and perhaps better suited to help the team because of that versatility. He's also not an injury concern.
Back to Stallworth, with two open spots--one likely to be taken by Austin--he needs to shine in the preseason finale.
Certainly he's demonstrated his ability during training camp, but another strong showing in a game isn't going to hurt.
"I think there's a chance," Stallworth told me this week when I asked if he thought he'd survive the cuts. "That's all you can ask for. I think I've worked hard enough to put myself in a position to be considered. That's all I can ask."
Indeed the names of players who will try to be at the top of their game tonight seems limitless.
Most people view the final preseason game as a boring dress rehearsal of players they'll never hear about again.
For what it's worth, I disagree. This is some of the most competitive football you'll see all season.
Players will give their all to make one last statement to the coaches. They may not be household names, but to them this is their Super Bowl--their one shot.
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