When the Redskins line up against the Indianapolis Colts tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium, there will be a few guys that not only want to make an impression, but need to make an impression. With just a few short weeks left before the regular season, coaches are going to have their fingers on the eject button, and will start jettisoning players after every game. So who is on the bubble, and needs to play well to land on the Redskins 53 man roster?
Here are my top ten guys:
1) John Beck – Well after a long awaited, incredibly over-hyped, likely to be incredibly anti-climactic build-up, John Beck will see action tonight against Indy. Due to that build-up and just three games to make an impression, every appearance Beck makes is going to be crucial to his positioning. Obviously he’s going to be on the roster, but he will have to make some strong showings to look more capable than Rex Grossman looked against the Steelers. I have contributed to the over-hyping by having him listed first overall, but what can I say, after being Rexually excited last week, I’m anxious to see if Beck’s balls look just as tight. (Yeah I just said that.)
2) Malcolm Kelly – He REALLY needs to make an impact tonight. He has to show that he has what it takes to play week-in, and week-out in the NFL. What? He didn’t even make the trip? Nevermind. Oh wait, him not playing is as important to his ultimate outcome as him playing well. I get that he might still play the last two games of the preseason, and show some talent, but wouldn’t that just be representative of what you can ultimately expect from him during the regular season? Looking pretty good out there… but for maybe eight games.
3) Chris Horton – It would appear that the opportunity for Horton is golden with LaRon Landry, OJ Atogwe, and Kareem Moore all on the shelf, but it’s only an opportunity if you play well. Horton struggled last week against Pittsburgh, and while he can fall back on the fact that he hadn’t played football for a while, that won’t wash two weeks in a row. The Redskins need Horton for depth, but with rookie DeJon Gomes sniffing around at a roster spot, The Predator needs to have a good game tonight against Indy.
4) Kevin Barnes – With Josh Wilson a no-go, Barnes might get to start along side of DeAngelo Hall. The youngster from Maryland will at least share time with Phillip Buchanon, who didn’t see any action last week, and doesn’t need much with a four-game suspension to start the season. Barnes most useful role this season will likely be in nickel situations, but the added experience and playing time will be great for him, and help him solidify a spot in a deep secondary.
5) Terrence Austin – Young, talented and full of potential – Austin may still find himself on the outside looking in, at a roster spot. With a glut of capable receivers, Washington has the unenviable task of trying to balance youth with experience, and raw talent with proven ability. Austin will be in the spotlight on special teams tonight with Brandon Banks sitting this one out – so if ever the 2nd year 7th rounder needed to have a good showing – it’s tonight against the Colts.
6) Leonard Hankerson – He’s young, he’s talented, and he was drafted early enough that he’s likely a lock for the roster – but he has to stop dropping passes. As mentioned about Austin, tough decisions lay ahead at wide receiver, and Hankerson can’t rest on any laurels to get one of those spots. He will likely see substantial time tonight, and he has to do what he does, and do it well – be a big, dependable target. Dependable targets don’t drop balls. His route running will improve and he won’t likely be judged much on that fact alone, but he has to be able to make some plays to stay in the top half of the Redskins receiving corps.
7) Horatio Blades – While the Redskins seem stacked at linebacker, and do have some good young talent, there isn’t much on the inside after London Fletcher. Blades is a known special teams commodity, but needs to have a strong showing every time out, or the Redskins will continue to look for new depth options inside. Blades has expressed some frustration at the Redskins apparent lack of confidence in his ability, but a big game, and some big plays could start to swing things back into Horatio’s favor.
8 ) Clint Stitser – Did you say, “Who?” Stitser was signed this week to replace the quickly dispatched Shayne Graham, especially with Graham Gano needing to spend time with his newborn child and wife (Congratulations!). Stitser was with the Bengals last year and was 7-for-8 on field goals, but the kicking situation in Washington is an on-going mess, so everyone that is given an opportunity, does have a chance to make a mark. Well Graham didn’t get much of one, but you know what I’m saying.
9) Mike Sellers – Sellers is fighting for his roster life. He appears to be an outside shot, but Big Mike is good for a lot of different things, and a good outing might remind some people of that. Washington WILL make room for him if he can establish some prowess at tight end, especially with his special teams abilities, and nose for the end zone. But when you’re on the bubble like Mike is, you can’t afford to mail one in.
10) Roy Helu – Like Hankerson, when and how Helu was drafted would likely mandate that a roster spot is secure, but tonight might be the Nebraska product’s time to shine. Last week rookie Evan Royster actually saw more action, and before Helu, but the two running backs will likely both see a lot of duty in Indianapolis. On his best play last week, an 18-yard scamper, Helu showed the burst and extra gear that Redskin fans are hoping to see a lot of, but he also looked hesitant at times. With Ryan Torain still hurt, Helu can make a very strong, lasting impression, with a solid, consistent performance against the Colts.
Many say that the preseason, “doesn’t mean anything,” but perhaps they should ask the guys that are handed their walking papers tomorrow morning. Truthfully, with such a time-crunched offseason, nobody can really afford to have an off day in a four-game job interview. The ten aforementioned guys can really help their causes with big games; unfortunately, the subsequent sidenote to that is that they can also hurt their NFL careers with bad ones.
Tweet this out, and let us know who you think will need to play well tonight.