ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins’ starters won’t play Wednesday, making the final preseason game seem even less relevant. Except, of course, to the handful of players still trying to win a roster spot. There’s a good chance the Redskins know almost all the players they’ll keep on the final 53-man roster.
But, just in case, Wednesday night's game at Tampa Bay provides a handful of players the chance to change minds -- or improve their standing. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said “eight or nine” spots remain undecided. That likely means they could be leaning one way, but it’s not firm. In other cases it means the health at one position could remove someone from the roster they initially anticipated keeping.
“We try not to go in with any decisions that are already pre-made,” Gruden said. “We have ... tough decisions to make. Hopefully this game will clear it up for us.”
And there’s this, too: “It’s about special-teams battles. That’s one thing we’re really going to keep a close eye on."
Receiver Maurice Harris: Absolutely has a shot because of his ability to play special teams. If he’s a sixth receiver, that’s pretty much all he would do, barring injuries to players ahead of him. Harris has caught only three passes this summer, so if he makes it, special teams will be key.
“Maurice Harris has been very impressive all throughout training camp and he’s made some plays. He’s done good,” Gruden said.
Receiver T.J. Thorpe: Can return punts, still probably more of a practice-squad candidate, however. They like his toughness.
Receiver Kendal Thompson: Continues to improve in his transition from college quarterback. He opened eyes in practice before he made a one-handed, game-winning catch vs. the Jets. Probably a long shot, but could stick on the practice squad.
Center Austin Reiter: There’s a chance the Redskins will only go with eight offensive linemen. Reiter needs to convince them he should be No. 9.
Center/guard Josh LeRibeus: See above.
Running backs Rob Kelley and Mack Brown: Kelley is in terrific position, but the Redskins have remained in contact with Pierre Thomas just in case. Another strong game would solidify Kelley's standing. Brown can help himself with a strong showing, but it's hard to imagine them keeping four true running backs.
Tight end Logan Paulsen: It depends on the week, and who you talk to, as to whether or not he’ll stick around. Coaches like him and he's blocked well this summer. It’s not a lock that they’ll only keep three tight ends, but it will come down to whether or not they keep an extra player at one of these spots: running back (with the fourth a fullback), offensive line or defensive line.
Receiver Rashad Ross: He’s on the bubble after an uneven summer because of his hands, both as a receiver and punt returner. Has terrific speed, but if Josh Doctson is healthy to start the season, the Redskins would need a sixth receiver mostly as a special-teams guy. With the new kickoff rule giving teams possession at the 25 after a touchback -- and increasing the likelihood of players not bringing the ball out of the end zone -- it could reduce the need for a guy who mostly returns kickoffs.
Fullback Joe Kerridge: Hasn’t received a lot of attention, but he’ll stick around in some fashion.
Lineman Cullen Jenkins: It’s not a slam dunk that he makes the final roster just yet. The Redskins likely will give him up to 10 plays vs. the Bucs to see if he can still help.
Lineman Matt Ioannidis: If the Redskins keep six defensive linemen, and Jenkins is one of them, Ioannidis could be in trouble. A big night vs. Tampa Bay would make it harder to expose him to waivers.
Lineman Anthony Lanier: He’s flashed ability, but is realistically a ways away from contributing and that could land him on the practice squad. A big night would help.
Lineman Corey Crawford: He was on the practice squad last season and remains in contention for a possible seventh spot.
Linebacker Houston Bates: Has worked as the No. 4 outside linebacker consistently since training camp opened, but file this in the you-never-know category.
Linebacker Carlos Fields: The Redskins appear set at inside linebacker with five players – Will Compton, Mason Foster, Su’a Cravens, Martrell Spaight and Terence Garvin. But Fields has impressed enough to warrant consideration, even if it’s still more for the practice squad. He spent five games on the Redskins’ roster last season. Garvin is primarily a special-teamer, but they’ll only keep five here. So if Fields makes it, then someone has to go.
Safety Deshazor Everett: He absolutely would help on special teams, as he did last season during his 11 games on the roster. The Redskins would love to find a way to get him onto the roster, but if they take six corners and four safeties, Everett likely will be on the outside. To keep him, they’d have to keep one less elsewhere (only six on the defensive line?) or only keep five corners, something the front office seems reluctant to do. Everett moved to safety from corner, but his main role would be special teams.