*With one more opportunity to catch coaches' eyes, rookie linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons finished out the preseason with an interception return for a touchdown in the Redskins' victory over Tampa. *
As time ran out for players to make a few more impressions during the Redskins' final preseason game, linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons took advantage of his last opportunities. This year's seventh-round draft pick had had a mostly quiet preseason, transitioning from safety to dime linebacker and adjusting to his new responsibilities within the third-team defense, but near the end of the fourth quarter of the team's 13-10 victory, the diligence in learning paid off.
Harvey-Clemons adjusted well to a play-action deep in Buccaneers territory, and after a couple steps forward sprinted backwards into coverage. He turned to the right as a streaking wide receiver Bobo Wilson came into his picture, where the pass from Tampa Bay quarterback Sifo Liufau spun into his lap.
The Louisville product, using an impressive block from linebacker Nico Marley, and then near the goal line from Stefan McClure, fought his way through traffic for 41 yards to find the end zone, giving the Redskins a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"It felt great man," Harvey-Clemons said. "It was a play-action pass and it's something we work on with the linebackers all the time, once you feel the flow of the running back and it's a play-action, turn and find the crossing receiver and I got up under him and the quarterback, I don't know if he saw me or not, but he threw it right to me and I had great blockers on the play."
Harvey-Clemons was mobbed by teammates on the sideline afterward, celebrating the rookie's biggest play of the preseason.
"I mean, it felt great, man," he said. "Those guys are great competitors, they're great leaders, and they were with me the whole game telling me – especially Zach [Brown] and Mason [Foster] – telling me different reads and keys and stuff like that to be looking for as a linebacker and those guys have done a great job all camp with leading and I'm just following their lead and trying to make plays."
Entering the game, head coach Jay Gruden expressed his hope that the younger players, limited in action during the third preseason game, would take advantage of their increased playing time Thursday night, using the techniques they had learned and react accordingly.
Overall, Harvey-Clemons, who at times looked extremely explosive, accrued five tackles and led a defense that had the Buccaneers' number for most of the night. The Redskins outgained Tampa Bay in yards 194 to 40 in the first half, holding them scoreless, and kept quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to just two completions on seven attempts.
"I feel like we played great as a whole defense, we shut them out the first half and then we gave up a touchdown late in the second half, but we held them on the last drive from winning it or taking it to overtime. So, I feel like overall we played together, we made the plays we needed to make down the stretch to win the ballgame."
Despite regretting a few missed sacks in the early-going, a product of his burst through the middle of the line in which he couldn't recover as Liufau moved up into the pocket, Harvey-Clemons was pleased with his effort. In four games he acquired 15 tackles and now has an interception and touchdown for good measure.
Like his fellow rookies and players on the fringe of the roster, he will spend the next couple of days awaiting a decision from coaches, relying on his play over the past offseason and preseason to determine his short-term future.
"It's tough man," he said, "but you just got to pray and hope for the best and hopefully your film showed that you deserve to make the 53 [-man roster]."