Week 1 of the NFL preseason doesn’t offer much in evaluating starters and what it could mean for the regular season. Many of the Redskins starters won’t even suit up tonight and those that do play are slated to play just a series or two. What can be gleaned from tonight’s game is some clarity in various position battles around the team and a first look at a number of rookies. Here are the things to watch for tonight:
– We already know that first round rookie Daron Payne isn’t going to play tonight and if 2nd rd RB Derrius Guice plays it will likely be for no more than two series. Even without the two biggest names there is a lot to watch for from the group of drafted rookies:
3rd rd OT Geron Christian- With Trent Williams and Morgan Moses both expected to not play tonight, Christian should find himself with plenty of playing time. Other tackles like Ty Nsekhe and T.J. Clemmings might even see some work at guard, so Christian could end up playing most of this game. It will be a good first test for Christian, who has plenty of upside, but is a bit raw.
4th rd S Troy Apke- Apke should find plenty of work as well as starter D.J. Swearinger is out and Montae Nicholson doesn’t figure to play much tonight. I’d also guess that back-up Deshazor Everett doesn’t get pushed to much as well so that Apke and other younger safeties can get more work.
5th rd DL Tim Settle- With Daron Payne out, Ziggy Hood figures to get the start, but Settle should see a good bit of work in the 2nd and 3rd quarters and may even play into the 4th quarter. He is pretty safe to make the team and has had a great camp so far, but it will be nice to see if that can translate into game action.
6th rd LB Shaun Dion Hamilton- Hamilton is part of a tough position battle (see below) for back-up linebackers. He’s starting to get more work with the 2nd team in camp so he could potentially come in behind the starters. It’s probably more likely he plays more of the 2nd half, but he could play the entire time.
6th rd supp. CB Adonis Alexander- Alexander hasn’t been with the team as long as the other rookies after being drafted in the supplemental draft last month, so this will be a good test for him. With some uncertainty with the 2nd-4th corner spots the Redskins might not go longer with some of the players higher on their depth chart to start the game. Alexander should see a good amount of time in the 2nd half.
7th rd CB Greg Stroman- Stroman is in the same boat as Alexander for reps after the starters and key back-ups leave the game. The bottom of the corner depth chart is definitely up for grabs, so this will be fun to watch to see who makes a case.
7th rd WR Trey Quinn- Quinn is in a battle for three spots out of four likely options (see below), but carries the advantage of being the most natural slot receiver option on the team after Jamison Crowder. With Crowder not expected to play tonight, Quinn could get a very long extended look tonight. I don’t know if he will open with the starters as the team could opt for Brian Quick or Maurice Harris in the slot to start, but I’d expect Quinn to see the field plenty tonight. Also with fellow WR Josh Doctson out that will filter even more opportunities to Quinn.
– Though most of these UDFAs are long shots to make the team with the possible exception of corner Danny Johnson, this can be an interesting group to watch. It’s likely multiple of these guys will end up on the practice squad and one or two may end up contributing down the line. Johnson is clearly the one with the best opportunity to make the 53 man roster out of camp as the bottom of the cornerback depth chart is up for grabs. Johnson has had a good camp and if he starts stringing together some good preseason performances he could earn that roster spot.
Other UDFAs that are interesting to watch are: Wide receivers Simmie Cobbs and Cam Sims, OL Timon Parris, TE’s Matt Flanagan and Garrett Hudson on offense. Defensively S Quin Blanding, LB Jerod Fernandez and LB Vontae Diggs.
– With the top three receivers set, the bottom three spots are up for grabs with Brian Quick, Trey Quinn, Maurice Harris, and Robert Davis as the most likely contenders. Long shots include UDFAs Simmie Cobbs and Cam Sims. Now the Redskins are expected to be without both starters Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson tonight, so it will be interesting to see who steps into their roles and how long those players play. If they are given the “starter” treatment and only play two series it might indicate that their spot is pretty well locked up. Here’s a quick break-down on the top 4 guys and what they bring to the table:
Quick- Most experienced and versatile of the group. He has played in 78 games over 6 years amassing 111 catches, 1,575 yards and 10 TDs in that time. He’s capable of playing any of the 3 WR spots and he’s got good size and athletic ability.
Davis- Great size/speed combo, just an all around athletic freak. Raw as a player which is why he was able to be stashed on the practice squad last year. How much he’s developed will be key, if he’s shown better as a route runner and has improved his catching ability, he’d be tough to cut.
Harris- Has had two good camps with the Redskins in the past and got called up to the active roster last year. Good size and decent speed, has shown himself to be a good route runner and continues to show development.
Quinn- Classic slot receiver, could maybe work outside, but his skill set is perfect for the slot role. Had a huge year at SMU and was an apparent favorite of the Redskins coaches in the draft process. Now we get to see just how ready he is.
– The Redskins starting running back and third down back are set, but it’s possible the Redskins are looking for a specific back-up for each role. That leads us to a pair of interesting head-to-head battles to watch tonight in Rob Kelley vs Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall vs Kapri Bibbs.
From a draft status and upside perspective Perine appears to have the upside over Kelley on paper, but reports out of camp and some of Jay Gruden’s comments make it seem that Kelley is ahead of the 2017 4th round pick. Kelley is slimmed down and showing more explosiveness in camp and he’s always been a bit of a favorite of the coaching staff. Perine was a highly productive college running back and you typically don’t want to give up on a 4th round pick after just one season. Sure Perine’s overall production wasn’t that impressive, but he was mainly running behind a line made up of back-ups (and in some cases back-ups to back-ups). Tonight should be a good test as I’d expect both to get a good chunk of carries and playing time.
The Marshall vs Bibbs battle isn’t as exciting on paper given that their role would be very limited as long as Chris Thompson remains healthy, but Thompson has had his fair share of injury woes. Both backs were signed later in the year last year and got a little bit of work. Bibbs was a bit more productive, but he may be behind Marshall entering tonight. Marshall has had a strong camp so far, but can he continue that tonight will be the key question.
– This is one of the better training camp battles to watch tonight as the Redskins have five guys (with a realistic chance) battling for three maybe four spots. Martrell Spaight has been with the Redskins the longest, but he could be in the most trouble come cut down day. He is facing some stiff competition in camp especially from a pair of recent draft picks in Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaun Dion Hamilton, who both are extremely likely to make the team. Zach Vigil and Pete Robertson are the other two options battling for spots as well. If Harvey-Clemons and Hamilton have locked down their spots, they might be competing for a single role. Robertson is listed as an outside linebacker, but he’s likely battling for the same special teams/back-up role as the other backers traditionally thought of as inside linebackers.
While this entire battle is interesting, the two players I’m most interested in watching tonight are Harvey-Clemons and Hamilton. Both are intriguing younger players who could eventually develop into starters. Harvey-Clemons has gotten rave reviews from camp and apparently the coaches are really high on him. He could potentially be viewed as a dime linebacker this year getting a fair amount of playing time. It will be nice to see him get a fair amount of playing time and how he matches up in coverage. Shaun Dion Hamilton’s biggest thing to prove tonight is that he’s healthy after missing parts of the last two seasons due to injury. He has a lot of promise, but tonight is likely about getting the rust off and showing he’s around 100%.
– We know that Brandon Scherff is locked into RG, Chase Roullier is pretty secure at center and all indications point to Shaun Lauvao as the LG to start the year. What we don’t know is who backs them up. The Redskins are likely to keep four back-up offensive linemen, but two of those spots figure to be locked up by primary tackles Ty Nsekhe and Geron Christian. At least one of the remaining two back-up roles should go to a primary interior player with Tony Bergstrom as the most likely option, but the job won’t just be handed to him. Tyler Catalina and Kyle Kalis both are guys to watch tonight, especially with any versatility they show to play in multiple roles. The other thing to watch will be if Nsekhe or fellow tackle T.J. Clemmings get work inside to show that they are more than just a back-up tackle option.