The Redskins play their final preseason game Thursday night, which for many players is a welcome ending to a laborious and taxing training camp and preseason. However, it remains a meaningful, potentially life-impacting, contest for those still unsure of their place on the roster.
After training camp and three preseason games under their belts, there are still 60 minutes to prove oneself under the lights in Baltimore. Here are a few position battles that are worth keeping an eye on as the Redskins get in their final licks and preparation for Week 1.
With more injuries come more replacements. With more replacements come opportunities and variables that threaten the previous status quo. That's an elaborate way of stating that the Redskins running backs group has a lot of talented members based on a lot of injury timelines now converging towards the final preseason game.
It would seem to be the case that Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson are locks, while the final roster destinations for Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs, De'Veon Smith and Byron Marshall are more uncertain.
Head coach Jay Gruden has long mentioned that he'd ideally like to have a third down running back to back up Thompson – someone that has strong skillsets pass protecting and catching passes, namely Bibbs. If the Redskins choose to keep four running backs that might mean Perine or Kelley would be the odd man out. The variables are numerous.
"Well, I think everybody understands the competition at every position, so those conversations will take place, have taken place. Samaje has been unavailable as of late, so now it's important for him to get back in there and make a run and Rob [Kelley] the same thing," Gruden said. "The competition is still there without a doubt. They know what's up. They're pros."
Both Perine and Marshall left the Jets game with ankle injuries, which prompted a quick tryout process that landed Peterson in Washington. Perine has been able to practice for the majority of the week and will likely get a fair share of carries on Thursday, but how Washington views the depth chart is still unclear.
Other factors that could play a role in a decision are special teams play and the fullback position, which was filled last year by tight end Niles Paul. Should the Redskins feel confident in Perine or Kelley being used in that role, in addition to tailback duties, that could mean the team carries five backs.
"We don't know how many tight ends we're going to keep, how many backs we're going to keep, how many offensive linemen we are going to keep, and that has an impact on inside backers, safeties and corners," Gruden said. "So, that's the biggest thing is the numbers at each position is the most difficult, and that's something we are going to have to discuss and talk about, but there's still quite a few jobs that are still open for the taking, and like I said, the ten practice squad spots are also equally as important."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Preseason Week 4 game against the Baltimore Ravens Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
"That's going to be the toughest one I think, one of them," Gruden said about the inside linebackers Monday.
The Redskins kept five inside linebackers last year, but have six very deserving candidates on this season's roster, plus a potential practice squad player in the promising Jerod Fernandez.
Zach Brown and Mason Foster are the obvious selections as they'll be Washington's starters in the middle of the defense. However, after No. 53 and 54, the Redskins will have tough decisions due to no player having the same skillset.
Gruden has been impressed with Zach Vigil, saying the fifth-year player "has done a great job as far as communication." Vigil's value lies in him being the backup signal caller to the defense if Foster would have to miss time.
Sixth-round pick Shaun Dion Hamilton also has impressed coaches with his ability to lead the defense. As the youngest of the group, Hamilton's upside is significant. Gruden has consistently said throughout training camp and the preseason that Hamilton isn't yet 100 percent back from a broken kneecap injury he sustained in November of 2017, but his play has been impressive.
And speaking of impressive play, Martrell Spaight likely leads the group. He's made a few head-turning plays this preseason where's he burst into the backfield to make tackles for loss. Spaight's performance defending the run has been consistent throughout his career. He's already shown he's a reliable depth guy the last couple seasons.
Last, and with the most unique skillset, is Josh Harvey-Clemons. The Louisville product's availability has been limited this summer due to injury, but his background as a safety gives him a leg up on the rest of the group due to his ability to defend the pass.
"Obviously, Josh Harvey-Clemons fills a void as far as dime coverage, and he's done better in base," Gruden said.
He's also a solid special teamer with plenty of potential to still fill out as he enters his second season.
Another group that's made some waves at the bottom of the depth chart, further complicating how the Redskins would like to structure the roster, is the wide receivers group.
Aside from Cam Sims separating himself from the pack over training camp and the first two preseason games, the Redskins have found a solid group of contributors in Darvin Kidsy, Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Shay Fields, among other recent additions.
With Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson Jr., Jamison Crowder and Maurice Harris likely in the fold heading into Week 1, that leaves one or two more spots available for a veteran such as Brian Quick or youngsters in Sims and seventh-round pick Trey Quinn.
Gruden stressed in his press conference that special teams will factor into a final decision, which means that Quinn has an advantage as a punt and kickoff return option.
"I try not to jump to any conclusions too soon because somebody's going to show up or somebody's not going to show up in the last game and [it] could make a very big difference," Gruden said. "It won't tell the whole story, but it'll have a lot of impact in the final say and special team will also. That's really the unit I'm looking most closely at is special teams. You know, for core backup positions, you have to be good on special teams."
But making the final roster isn't all these receivers are playing for.
Understandably, they want to provide as much good tape of themselves as possible for other teams to consider. The Redskins also have 10 spots to fill on the practice squad and they'll likely need one or two receivers to develop and use for the scout team.
"I put up a lot of good film," Kidsy said on Tuesday. "Either way, I love the Redskins and I feel like this is home. You can't really think too much about, you know, after Thursday. You just got to think about your assignment, and I'll be too focused on what I have to do, to be worried about after Thursday."