An annual part of the NFL calendar, much like the juncture of the season where we all realize we have no clue what a catch is or the portion of the offseason where it becomes clear everyone associated with the Cleveland Browns should find a new hobby outside of football, is trying to recognize young, unknown players who'll sneak up out of nowhere and make a roster — and an impact.
With the Washington Redskins set to begin training camp on July 28, the process of seeking out fringe guys who'll surprise is already in full swing and will only heat up when the team gets back together in Richmond. And now it's Breaking Burgundy's turn to try and contribute to that process.
By looking at things such as college careers, combine performances or physical makeup, three under-the-radar names who hold the upper hand against Burgundy and Gold veterans in certain key areas have been identified. So, who do the names belong to, what parts of their game are particularly strong and does this give them a better chance at securing a spot in D.C.? Let's find out.
Martrell Spaight — 2nd year
Valuable asset: Strength
How things shake out at inside linebacker for the Redskins will be worth watching. As the situation stands, it looks like Compton and Foster will be the starters with Riley, Garvin, Daniels and Spaight also looking to get involved.
Spaight, a fifth-round pick from 2015, is somewhat of the forgotten man among the backups. Riley has been here for years, Garvin just joined via free agency, and Daniels is a rookie while Spaight is coming off a season in which he landed on injured reserve in Week 1. One attribute it looks like he has more than his more talked about buddies, though? Raw strength.
Aside from some startling photos, in which Spaight's biceps will make you feel inadequate, the proof is also in the numbers. At the NFL Combine, the Arkansas product bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times. It's an output that surpassed the work done by Compton (24), Foster (22), Garvin (18), Riley (17) and Daniels (16) in the same setting. That muscle could be the difference in helping him stand out on defense or on special teams and knocking someone else off of roster.
Dashaun Phillips — 2nd year
Valuable asset: Ballhawking
Beats out: All Redskins corners but one in terms of college interceptions
After minicamp sessions in which he was often on the field with the first-string defense, Phillips is someone worth keeping an eye on. Unfortunately for him, he's looking to catch on at one of Washington's most talented spots. Fortunately for him, he has the playmaking chops to make something happen.
At Tarleton State, the 25-year-old picked off opposing quarterbacks 11 times, which is tied with Josh Norman and behind only Greg Toler for most college interceptions among Redskins cornerbacks. That's three more than Kendall Fuller and seven more than Bashaud Breeland, for comparison's sake.
Now, that's not to say that Phillips is on a level with Norman or Breeland. But it is worth noting that he's an experienced ballhawk, because that's a quality that shows up well in practice and in preseason contests, which are the times he'll be auditioning for Jay Gruden and Joe Barry. All it takes is Phillips snapping back into that mode once or twice during the exhibition season, and that could be enough to edge out someone like Quinton Dunbar.
Reggie Diggs — Rookie
Valuable asset: Height
Beats out: Every other receiver
For the first-year man out of Richmond, what he has over everyone else at his position is simple: he's taller. The Redskins have been searching for a big threat on the outside since the beginning of time for quite some time, and at 6-foot-4, he absolutely meets that requirement.
The only two receivers close to Diggs are Josh Doctson and Maurice Harris, who stand at 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3, respectively. Doctson is obviously a lock to make the squad, but Diggs far outpaces Harris in college production (151 catches and 12 scores over his last two years in school), so when it comes to the other options on the bubble, Diggs has more than a fighting chance.
At camp, there'll most likely be only one wideout job up for grabs and a lot of people fighting for it. Rashad Ross looks to be the favorite now, but large bodies like Diggs' aren't easy to find. Football is a game of inches, after all — perhaps the advantage he has in height will give him the boost he needs.
Follow Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.
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