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Preseason Finale Provides Undrafted Rookies With Final Audition Before Roster Cuts 


The preseason is a chance for NFL players to show franchises their potential, how they have developed in-between seasons and, ultimately, why they should be considered for the 53-man final roster.

For some, the challenge is easier than others. Veterans have several years of NFL experience, meaning the coaching staff has an idea of the type of playing they're getting. Recent draftees do not have that luxury, but they are still prioritized considering the team used a draft pick -- a valuable asset -- just to get them in the building.

As for undrafted rookies? Well, let's just say they have a lot of ground to make up.

"I'm trying to prove myself every day," said Ryan Bee, a 6-foot-7 defensive lineman out of Marshall "because I feel like I kind of got overlooked a little bit during the draft."

Take a look at photos from Redskins practice before they take on the Baltimore Ravens on August 27th, 2019.

Bee was one of eight college free agents to sign with the Redskins immediately after the draft in late April, and four of those players -- Bee, linebacker B.J. Blunt, wide receiver Steven Sims and safety JoJo McIntosh -- remain on the 90-man roster entering Thursday night's preseason finale with Baltimore.

By Saturday evening, however, the Redskins will have to cut their roster down to 53 players. That leaves roster hopefuls with just one more chance to prove to the organization that they belong.

"Going in locked-in, make as many plays as you can," said Blunt, who played college football at McNeese State. "Just show what you can do for the guys around you and not just yourself and show what you can do in every aspect of the game: special teams, defense, whatever they need you to do."

Throughout this process, Blunt has leaned on more-experienced players who offer a window into how to succeed in the NFL. He's specifically worked with fellow middle linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, a "smart guy" whose grasp of the playbook has helped expedite his own development. "He's been showing me the ropes and showing me how things go in this league."

While Hamilton does not have a wealth of NFL experience either -- the Redskins drafted him just last year -- Blunt referenced his playing days at Alabama as a sign that Hamilton can excel in "this type of environment."

What returning players like Hamilton cannot provide, however, is any roster protection heading into the start of the regular season. And with a 90-man roster, undrafted rookies do not always have ample opportunities to succeed in the preseason.

Sims, for one, has sensed the impact of that dynamic.

"I feel like I really haven't been able to just show what I can do on offense or special teams," he said.

As a player likely used to flying under the radar - his Kansas teams went 6-42 during his collegiate career -- the 22-year-old has attempted to maximize whatever workload the coaches have given him. "I haven't really gotten the ball too much in these preseason games," he said, "but when I do touch it, I'm getting positive yards."

Undrafted rookie running back Craig Reynolds has a similar mindset. The Division II product out of Kutztown University earned an invite to the Redskins' rookie minicamp in May, then distinguished himself enough to become one of five tryout signees.

Things have not gotten easier, though, as Reynolds is a part of a loaded running backs room that includes Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall.

In trying to carve out a role for himself, Reynolds has been attacking every day as if it were his first day of rookie minicamp. But as an undrafted rookie, he's also made sure to enjoy every moment and "just have fun."

"Enjoying the opportunity," Reynolds told "Great group of guys, going out there and working every day."

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