LANDOVER, Md. -- Something wasn’t working for Washington Redskins receiver Rashad Ross so he decided to make a change. Getting cut does that for a guy. So Ross dedicated himself more to his craft -- and gave himself his best chance to make a roster.
Ross finished a strong summer with a 10-catch, 103-yard performance in a 17-16 preseason finale loss to Jacksonville on Thursday night. He finished the preseason with 25 catches for 266 yards. No other member of the Redskins had more than eight receptions. Special teams will play a big role in deciding the final receiver -- rookie Evan Spencer is better in coverage; Ross is a returner, but the Redskins don't necessarily need him for that role. Still, he has a rare commodity: speed.
“Even in practice he makes splash plays every day,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We talk about taking advantage of opportunities. He’s one of the guys that really has opened our eyes. It’s going to make it very tough. He just made it very interesting.”
For all that he did, Ross still might not make the Redskins’ roster, though he’s in much better shape than he was a year ago at this time. Last year, he signed with Washington during the middle of camp after Kansas City cut him. So he knows the offense.
“When he knows where he’s going, he gets there in a hurry,” Gruden said. “He shows no fear, he caught a couple inside breaking routes. Took some hits, obviously we know he can run outside. I’ve been very impressed with him.”
But he also prepared better. Ross worked out with fellow receiver DeSean Jackson this summer and would stay after practice quite a bit.
“That’s big but a guy in my position, that’s what you have to do,” Ross said. “In the past, I wasn’t doing that so this year I was like, enough is enough I’ve got to stay and I’ve got to prepare for this.”
He prepared a lot with quarterback Colt McCoy.
“When I didn’t get any reps in practice, I would keep him afterwards and he would continue to run routes and he wanted to get better,” McCoy said. “I appreciate the way he handled everything and handled himself. He deserves a shot.”
Sitting at home changes a man.
“Wondering 'why me' all the time,” he said. “I just looked in the mirror and it can’t be nobody else. If more than one team cuts me, it’s got to be me. I was like, I need to change inside.”
Ross’ speed would be a big help, but what he showed this summer is he can help on other routes. In fact, he did not catch any deep balls and he did show an ability to come out of a break hard. On his 19-yard touchdown catch, his plant foot drove off the corner and Ross cut inside with extra separation. Once he caught the ball, his quickness juked another defender and allowed him to slice through the last defenders.
“Everyone knows me as a deep ball threat,” Ross said. “But I’m happy about my route-running and showing people I can do more than go deep.”
Fast receivers often need to learn how to play at a slower level during some aspects of their routes. That’s why Ross worked with Jackson.
“They say I’m fast, but that I don’t know how to come out of my breaks as crisp as he does,” Ross said. “So just working with him and watching him and training with him every day paid off.”
And now he waits -- but he won’t worry. He’s comfortable with what he did and confident that if the Redskins cut him, someone else will take him.
“It’s not that nerve-wracking to me,” he said. “I gave it my all.”