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'Bubble Players' Face Final Auditions


The last preseason game is typically regarded as the least important of the four. But for roster hopefuls, it's the last opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff.

Such was the case on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium, as the Redskins took on the Baltimore Ravens in the preseason finale for both teams.

Head coach Joe Gibbs said he expects some tough decisions over the next 48 hours. All NFL teams must reduce their roster to the league-mandated 53 on Saturday, Sept. 3.

"You always want to make a statement with your play," Gibbs said. "It was the last full-go before we have to make some decisions. My hope was that it all took place on the field, that the guys who make the team did so for what they showed on the field.

"I think we have had some guys do that this preseason. It will be a tough decision at the end. Hopefully the game film will make it easy."

For most of the Redskins' backups and young players, they had plenty of opportunities to show coaches what they can do during Thursday's game at Baltimore. The first-team defense left the field after one series and the first-team offense played a few series of the first quarter.

Probably the most closely watched positional battle was at punter and holder. Veteran Chris Mohr squared off against first-year player Andy Groom for the job.

Mohr, signed last week when Tom Tupa was placed on Injured Reserve, turned in a steady performance. He punted six times for 40.2-yard average per punt. Groom continued his solid preseason, punting three times for a 46-yard average.

Wide receiver Jimmy Farris stepped up with two touchdown catches. If he makes the squad, it will be on special teams, something he excelled at last season with the Atlanta Falcons.

"One thing I've always hung my hat on is being a productive special teams player," Farris said. "I've done that throughout my career. I feel like that's my niche. Those touchdown catches out there are probably my last for a while."

Farris was also called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, so that gaffe perhaps could work against him.

"I've been through this so many times-I'm on the bubble every year," Farris said. "I'm to the point I realize that a lot of things are taken into consideration when coaches decide on rosters."

Kevin Dyson caught three passes for 48 yards, Jamin Elliot had a key third-down catch to keep a touchdown drive alive and Rich Parson showed some flash as a return specialist.

Rock Cartwright stepped up as backup running back, rushing for 54 yards on 17 carries and catching one pass for 10 yards. He appears to have a leg up on seventh-round draft pick Nehemiah Broughton, who struggled with 10 rushes for 16 yards.

Broughton logged a special teams tackle in the second half, though. He has excelled at special teams this preseason, so it's possible that the team could keep four running backs on the final roster.

Defensive coaches will have some tough decisions at linebacker. Both Khary Campbell and Brandon Barnes, two holdovers from last season, are experienced special teams players, so they may have an edge over a player like undrafted rookie Zak Keasey.

Campbell came through with a blocked field goal in the first quarter of the Baltimore game, perhaps elevating his status.

Brandon Barnes stepped up as well, pressuring the Ravens' backup quarterback Anthony Wright into an incompletion with a delayed blitz in the second quarter.

And Keasey batted away a potential touchdown pass to Baltimore tight end Trent Smith in the second half, forcing the Ravens to settle for a field goal.

Clearly there are no easy decisions.

"It's tough because you have a lot of good guys who have worked real hard and put everything they have into it," Gibbs said. "I always try to talk to the guys that have not made the team because I feel like I owe them that. Sometimes they will ask me what they can do and I'll have a discussion about what I think they could do [to make it in the NFL].

"Obviously, in some cases we tell them if something happens here and things don't work out for them elsewhere, we would sometimes bring them back."

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