The drops became part of the narrative, but Washington Redskins receiver Rashad Ross' summer was about more than just some drops in practice. He reminded the Redskins of his big-play ability, and he worked on showing them he could do more than just win deep. That's what he hopes leads to a roster spot for a second consecutive summer.
He finished the preseason with 11 receptions and three touchdowns. He did fumble once (though he recovered it) and there was one deep ball he missed against Atlanta. But Ross did a nice job winning on the corner route against man coverage Wednesday night. He’s come a long way in two years. He’s not happy when the four drops in summer practice are brought up over and over, but even he mentioned them a couple of weeks ago. Part of the problem? He didn’t drop any the previous summer in winning a spot.
It's crazy how I drop 4 balls max at "Practice" in camp & reporters always have to bring that up!! But in the game I make it count!— Rashad Ross (@TheRocketRashad) September 1, 2016
When you’re still in a fight for a roster spot everything becomes magnified. So if he drops a few passes it stands out more than if, say, Pierre Garcon does.
That doesn’t mean Ross will, or should, be cut. It does mean every part of what he does on the field becomes part of his narrative -- not to mention a factor in any decisions made. The big plays he's made will help him, of course. He’s also shown that he can run more than just deep routes; only one of his three preseason touchdowns came via the long ball. The two others were fades.
Another key for Ross is that even though the Redskins like some of their other receivers -- T.J. Thorpe, Maurice Harris, Kendal Thompson -- did any of them beat Ross out? Ross won a spot last summer because he stood out. Typically, a player has to force a team to keep him by making big plays. If the Redskins do keep someone else, it's because they view that player as a better special-teams option.
The wide receiver depth chart will also be affected by rookie wideout Josh Doctson. If the Redskins think Doctson will be ready for the season opener -- as they’ve said he will be -- then they could look differently at the sixth receiver spot. In that scenario, perhaps the last spot would go to someone who excels more on special teams. Not saying that will happen, but that will be one discussion that takes place. If they don’t think Doctson will be ready for a couple of weeks, then that’s a reason to keep someone who can provide more immediate help at receiver.
A player such as Thompson didn’t jump out Wednesday night, which actually helps Washington. The Redskins can then put him on the practice squad. Thompson has done a nice job transitioning from quarterback. He moves like a guy who has played receiver before. But he’s probably best in a situation where he can continue to be developed. Did Harris or Thorpe show enough to warrant a spot on another team’s roster? It’s tough to say they did just as receivers. However, Thorpe showed ball security returning punts, and Harris is good on special teams, which is why he’s in the mix. I saw key blocks by Harris, Thorpe and Ross on downfield runs.
But Ross offers speed and that’s something teams always like and will try to develop as long as possible. The leaping catch he made in the end zone against the Jets provided a reminder of that ability. The fades showed he could win on another route, too.
The Redskins have two days to finalize these roster decisions. They won’t be easy, but they don’t want them to be.