Before last week's preseason game against the New York Jets, I named five players who aren't typically mentioned in Week 1 roster projections, but could force their way on to the final 53. Let's do that again with receivers, a pass rusher, blocker and runner before the Washington Redskins play their third preseason game Friday night versus the Buffalo Bills.
* It's odd starting with the wide receivers, but let's do that based on something coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday when I asked him after practice which positions he is starting to evaluate with regards to the depth chart. Here's the condensed answer:
“Yeah, I think running back obviously is very important. Matt Jones is our No. 1 back, but we’re really having good competition for the second spot. We have Chris Thompson as the third-down and the second back, but that’s an important battle. Obviously, left guard we’ve been talking about. The wide receiver position, there’s still some spots there up for grabs; guys are playing well. ... Guys have really come in and competed and made it hard on us, and this game will be very important.”
Gruden also mentioned all three levels of the defense, but the bolded section grabbed my attention. Receiver seems like the one unit where the positions are set outside of whether Josh Doctson's Achilles injury would land him on the regular season Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. The previous day Gruden said he sensed the first round pick could be available for Week 1. If so, then no PUP and the unit is set: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, Doctson, Rashad Ross and Ryan Grant.
That's what made the above comments interesting and worthy of a follow-up on whether Gruden meant the hierarchy of the six or possible who would make team.
"Just overall," Gruden said. "I think that we’ve had some guys come in that have really stepped up and really turned our heads, quite frankly. It’s been a great camp and I’m anxious to see these guys continue to grow and see what they can do in another game.”
The Redskins aren't keeping seven receivers. Ross and Grant have stood out throughout the summer. Crowder (knee) is banged up and out for Friday but it doesn't appear he'll miss significant time. Put Doctson on the PUP and it's not just out six games, but no practice as well, which would be a killer for a guy who hasn't practiced since May.
So, when Gruden says "still some spots there up for grabs," what's he talking about?
Maybe he simply said words that formed a sentence. If we take the meaning of those words, the other guys "playing well" would seemingly be 6-foot-3 target Maurice Harris and QB-turned WR Kendal Thompson (This article is about five players so no room for T.J. Thorpe). If Doctson starts on the PUP, Harris is the obvious red-zone replacement while Thompson had the miraculous one-handed touchdown grab last week. Regardless, it would be surprising if receiver unit isn't set unless there's some surprise waiting out there.
* Edge pass rush is a major concern beyond Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Names like Houston Bates, Lynden Trail and Willie Jefferson have carried the conversation for potential since Junior Galette's season-ending injury. However, I'm told that OLB Ejiro Ederaine has been the best at getting to the quarterback in camp outside of Kerrigan based on sacks tracked by the team. Granted he's primarily facing deep reserves in practice, but the Fresno State product had nine sacks last season and 16.5 tackles for loss.
* Takoby Cofield made each of previous Week 1 roster projections. Both of those came before the Redskins traded for center Bryan Stork. Cofield, who just had a little baby boy born this week, has played essentially everywhere on the line in camp but center. He's also received the most snaps among offensive players in each of the first two games. If Washington keeps Stork and Kory Lichtensteiger -- that remains unclear in my mind -- then someone else doesn't. I'm not convinced that someone is Cofield. Should the ex-Dukie stick, Al Bond could take his spot on the practice squad.
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