All Redskins fans know the names. Colt Brennan and Babe Laufenberg. Marko Mitchell and Brandon Banks. These players are just a few examples of guys who come out of nowhere to capture the hearts of fans during the preseason.
In some cases - Alfred Morris being the most recent and well known-, a player not many are familiar with turns his strong training camp and standout preseason into an important regular season role. In other instances, - Mitchell and Pat White come to mind -, the players aren’t able to carry over their preseason performance into the fall. Some don’t even get the chance.
Regardless, every summer a couple of unknown Burgundy and Gold players seize the opportunity and turn heads during training camp and preseason. With the Redskins starting camp at the end of July, now is a good time to predict who those players will be this time.
Welcome to our first edition of Possible Redskins Preseason Heroes, where we’ll attempt to pinpoint which unheralded names on the team’s roster will stand out and make a push for a chance to play in Week 1. First up is rookie running back Trey Williams.
Name: Trey Williams•
Hometown: Houston, Texas•
Height and weight: 5’7”, 195 pounds•
Acquired: May 6, 2015. Signed with the team as a undrafted free agent•
College: Texas A&M•
College stats: Played three years and 36 games for the Aggies. ...Rushing numbers: 204 carries for 1343 yards (6.6 ypc). ...Scored 18 career TDs on the ground. ...Receiving numbers: 38 -330-1. ...Return numbers: Averaged 24.1 yards on 70 returns
What he’s up against
There are currently six running backs on the team’s roster, and those guys are vying for four or five spots (last year, three RBs and a fullback made the team, and two years ago, four RBs and a fullback made the cut).
Alfred Morris is cemented as the Skins’ starter. Third-round pick Matt Jones is making a better first impression than a boyfriend who brings over an expensive bottle of wine over to his girlfriend’s house when he meets her parents for the first time. Silas Redd Jr, meanwhile, was in a similar position to Williams last year (he was undrafted coming out of USC) and earned himself a spot, and he should do it again.
That leaves third-year players Chris Thompson and Michael Hill left to fight for what looks like one roster slot along with Williams (assuming Darrel Young stays on as the Redskins fullback and is the fourth name to occupy the backfield’s depth chart, and there’s no reason to think otherwise). This battle could last all the way through the preseason finale, and it’ll be worth watching.
Can he do it?: Williams definitely has a reasonable chance to beat out the guys he’s competing with and earn a spot on the team’s Week 1 53-man roster.
In Morris, Jones, and Redd Jr., the team has three guys who are well-balanced runners that are more likely to break tackles than they are to outrun opposing defenders. Therefore, Jay Gruden is probably looking to fill that last backfield position with a speedy, pass-catching, third down back. His choice will likely come down to either Thompson or Williams.
Both players will have trouble literally standing out (Thomspon is 5’8” and Williams is an inch shorter) but they boast impressive agility and are very elusive with the ball in their hands. Gruden has spoken highly of Thompson in the past, and it’s clear he’d like to give him a bigger role – he just is injured too much. And even though Williams didn’t hear his name called in the NFL Draft, his pre-draft profile at NFL.com calls him “one of the best make-you-miss types” in the 2015 class and labeled him “a mismatch weapon.”
Overall, Thompson and Williams do many similar things, and are versatile halfbacks that can excel in both the run game and the pass game. Every snap will be crucial as they look to become the team’s third down running back starting in September.
Prediction: Week 1 roster. Williams in, Thompson out.
Coaches often tire of consistently injured players. At this point, getting hurt is Thompson's move. I envision Williams turning heads during training camp and capitalizing on his chances in the second halves of preseason games both on offense and as a returner. He’ll prove to be a better version of Thompson, thus seizing a vital position on the Redskins moving forward.
One final point. Williams won’t just be a preseason hero who washes out later on. I think he’ll produce in the regular season as well. There’s a lot to like about his game - and the Redskins snatching him up back in May.