ASHBURN -- Ziggy Hood sat casually in front of his locker after Monday's practice, doing some light grooming and cell phone checking. Stephen Paea stood with nervous energy as he watched teammates excitedly compete in shuffleboard. Both were mere steps away from a large contingent of media surrounding another defensive tackle, the newly signed Cullen Jenkins.
The Redskins view Jenkins as possible help for their uncertain interior defensive line. For Hood and Paea, his large presence is symbolic. They're here today, with here meaning Redskins Park, but they could be gone tomorrow. Literally. The Redskins have a few more cuts to make by Tuesday at 4 p.m. before they reach the NFL limit of 75. Another larger batch of moves will happen before the 53-man roster for Week 1 is set.
“Well, there is still one more hurdle to go," Hood told Breaking Burgundy. "Make it past the second week of cuts."
The presence of Jenkins, who is no automatic fix to any run-stuffing or pass-rushing needs, is at least an indication that Washington's decision-makers are seeking more than what's on the roster.
More is what they want to see from Paea. It's almost inconceivable the 2015 free agent addition could receive his walking papers considering just 17 months prior he signed a 4-year, $21 million contract. Based on what's transpired over this summer combined with a disappointing first season, a roster numbers crunch and an "interesting" take from the head coach suggests it's quite possible.
“I can only control what I control," is how Paea responded to a simple leadoff question about how he feels after training camp and three preseason games. The tone was almost somber in an otherwise boisterous locker room.
The general topic of more cuts came up a few questions later.
“I control what I control. If I am here today, that’s a blessing. If I’m not here tomorrow, that’s another blessing. I have a chance to go with another team, but I don’t think it like that. I just come here and take it one day at a time. Be positive about everything and come out here and have fun," said the five-year veteran without a hint of mirth.
It's fair imagining the 28-year-old has plenty on his mind. Paea's 2015 campaign never ramped up as hoped and then he suffered a season-ending toe injury in December. Year Two hasn't gotten off on a good foot. Paea has primarily played with the second unit in practices and games. He'll cost $4.65 million against the salary cap if he stays. Now Jenkins is here. So are cuts. Despite his strength and potential, some view Paea as a potential odd man out.
"If I go out there five plays, I go out there five plays and do my best and I feel like I’ve done my best," Paea told Breaking Burgundy three days after playing 21 snaps against the Jets. "Whatever I can contribute to the team is … I ain’t selfish or things like that … whatever the coaches tell me to do, I’ll go out there and do it.”
Hood, who signed a bare bones 1-year deal this offseason, remains positive in words and vibe. Why not? The nose tackle entered training camp a long shot. Now many think he's earned his way onto the roster. That another tackle arrived isn't messing with Hood's approach.
“It don’t mean a thing to me because I still have to focus on what I need to do," the ex-Steeler said. "Because I start worrying about who’s in, who’s not, then I lose sight of what got me here to this point. ... Look myself in the mirror and say, ‘Did you get better?’ and if I can’t answer that then something's wrong."
There are 6-7 defensive line spots. Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois are safe. Kendall Reyes came over from San Diego with a $1 million signing bonus. Washington drafted Matt Ioannidis in the fifth round. 33-year-old Kedric Golston isn't a force, but he's the longest-tenured Redskin. Anthony Lanier has turned into a training camp surprise. Also Hood, Paea and Jenkins. Not all will be with the team when Washington hosts Pittsburgh on Sept. 12.
"I’ve had a good run thus far," Hood said of his summer with Washington. "Had a good game (Friday). Wish I could have done more but that’s the beauty of it. That no matter how good you do, you always want to do better. If I’m up this game, I’m going to do whatever I can to do as much as I can, if not I am going to rest up and see what the judgement is on that Black Friday.”