Maybe it was out of need; maybe it was about finding a gem. Most likely it was a little of both. Regardless, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has kept an undrafted free agent in two of his first three camps in Washington. It’ll be tougher this year because the Redskins are deeper than they were in 2010 when tight end Logan Paulsen, returner Brandon Banks and running back Keiland Williams all made the cut. A year later tackle Willie Smith made the roster. Paulsen has developed into a solid blocker and Williams, noted for his special teams play, is on the bubble. Banks and Smith are gone.
Last season? Nobody made it -- though if Chase Minnifield had stayed healthy he would have. Then again, if he had been healthy before the draft he'd have been a third-round pick at worst. The Redskins had drafted 21 players in 2011 and ’12 combined, making it tougher for an undrafted free agent to earn a spot. It’ll be more of the same this year, but here’s a breakdown of this year’s group:
Receivers: Skye Dawson (TCU), Nick Williams (Connecticut), Chip Reeves (Troy). Dawson impressed in training camp with his quickness and sharp cuts, leading to success in one-on-one drills vs. cornerbacks (a drill set up for receivers to look good). When they got to 11-on-11 work, Dawson did not show up as much. He’s one of four players who worked at kick returner Tuesday, along with Niles Paul, Evan Royster and Williams. So Dawson and Williams will have a chance to make noise more so than Reeves. Both still have a long way to go.
Linebackers: Will Compton (Nebraska), Melvin Burdette (UAB) and Jeremy Kimbrough (Appalachian State). None of them have flashed in a big way during training camp, though it’s obvious that Kimbrough, arrives with some pop, something the coaches have noticed. He’s listed at 5-foot-11, which might be a little generous. The Redskins need depth inside, but several players are ahead of this group. It’ll be tough for anyone here. But it’s always good to stash a young linebacker or two on practice squad.
Tight ends: Emmanuel Ogbuehi (Georgia State). He will not make the roster simply because the four guys ahead of him will (provided they all stay healthy). And even if one of them gets hurt the Redskins likely would go with three tight ends and keep an extra player elsewhere. Ogbuehi’s hands aren’t the most consistent, but he is athletic – he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and has a 35-inch vertical. He has decent strength. He’s the definition of raw.
Offensive line: tackle Xavier Nixon (Florida), guards Jacolby Ashworth (Houston) and Tevita Stevens (Utah). Nixon has a name because he played at Florida, but he has a long ways to go. He is just not ready to play tackle (he’s worked on the left side) in the NFL and would ideally need at least a year on practice squad (or more). Ashworth and Stevens are behind players the Redskins drafted a year ago (Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis, both of whom still project to backups). All three of these undrafteds are major longshots.