The Redskins safety knows it will be a challenge to climb the depth chart in a crowded secondary, but for now is focusing on getting better in all aspects of his game.
Washington Redskins safety Shak Randolph has been in this situation before.
After signing with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Randolph spent the entirety of his first NFL offseason battling for a roster spot before ultimately landing on the Chiefs' practice squad on September 5.
However, Randolph's time as a Chief was short-lived. He was released the following day, and didn't receive his next NFL opportunity until he joined Redskins as a practice squad player three months later.
Randolph has been a member of the Redskins organization ever since, but still finds himself in a similar position heading into the 2017 regular season. Only this time around, Randolph believes that an additional year of experience has better prepared him to battle for the job he truly wants: a spot on Washington's 53-man roster.
"[In] year one, everything's real new," Randolph told Redskins.com. "Every day you're just trying to get a feel for how things work at the NFL level. This year, it's a lot easier because you know what to expect even though I'm with a different organization. I say it's just a matter of finding your feet and getting better every day. That's all you can do for any organization you play for."
When evaluating Randolph's game, there's plenty for Redskins fans to like from a physical standpoint. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 216 pounds, the former Southern Methodist University Mustang has above-average size for a defender and certainly looks the part of a hard-hitting NFL safety.
However, Randolph chooses to rely more on his mobility and versatility, which has been on full display during this year's Organized Team Activities at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
"You don't see too many 6-foot-4 safeties that can move," Randolph said. "Me being rangy and then having the ability to pick up different positions whether it's free safety or strong safety, I believe that you can put me anywhere and mentally I'll be able to pick it up easy.
"We got a new defense that we're putting in. It's just a matter of coming in, working hard and mastering our craft. I believe each day we're making strides to get better and better and you can see it collectively as a secondary. That's the main thing—coming in, learning the system and building that bond with your teammates. It's been exciting and it's been going well."
Though plagued by injuries throughout his career at SMU, Randolph still managed to appear in 40 games for the Mustangs, tallying 110 tackles and an interception while splitting snaps at linebacker and safety. But to combat that misfortune, Randolph has added extra emphasis to taking care of his body during the offseason in order to maximize his durability at the NFL level.
"I try to stretch as much as I can," Randolph said. "The more flexible you are, the more you'll avoid injury. Also, working too hard and overtraining can influence injury. I try to find that healthy median where you're working but not over working and making sure I'm stretching, getting in the cold tub, hot tub and those important things. If you do those things the rest takes care of itself."
Randolph wants to play with physicality of Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and the intelligence of Chiefs safety Eric Berry, but knows that consistency is the most important trait he must have in order to achieve longevity in the NFL.
If he can do that, Randolph will absolutely see the field during the preseason and have the opportunity to separate himself in a crowded, competitive secondary.
"I think it's going to be really competitive going into the preseason because you have guys that bring different things to the table," Randolph said. "You got guys like Deshazor Everett and Su'a [Cravens] that are different and have different strengths and weaknesses. It's real interesting. We're just learning from each other and just getting better. I have a feeling that it's going to be a really good secondary group when the season starts."