By Tarik El-Bashir
What: Redskins vs. Buccaneers
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet, NBC 4
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ other starters are not expected to touch the field once tonight’s preseason finale against the Buccaneers kicks off.
But if you think that makes the game meaningless, just ask Dezmon Briscoe how he’s approaching it. For players like him, the contest represents their best chance of snagging a job in the NFL this season. Play well, earn a job. Struggle, get cut Friday, when teams must pare rosters from 75 to the regular season maximum of 53.
So don’t tell Briscoe tonight doesn’t mean anything.
Keep reading for a little more on Briscoe’s tenuous grasp on one of the final wide receiver jobs and a couple of other positions the crew at www.csnwashington.com will be keeping tabs on.
1) Against the Bears and Colts, Briscoe used his 6 foot 2, 210-pound frame and sure-handedness to haul in a combined five receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns – and leave an impression on the coaches, as well.
Against the Bucs, though, Briscoe must show he can excel on special teams, too. He said he expects to line up on kickoff, kick return, punt and punt rush teams. He started as the off-returner last season in Tampa Bay.
A strong showing on teams could be the edge Briscoe needs to beat out Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson. Those five are battling for what appears to be two final spots at wide receiver.
“I’m looking [forward] to showing the coordinators what I can do,” Briscoe said. “Going into my third year, I’ve realized that special teams is a huge, huge priority for people in the situation I’m in. I have to go out there and prove that I can play special teams.”
2) It will be interesting to see how Coach Mike Shanahan handles his running backs. Based on preseason performances and the team’s published depth chart, Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and Alfred Morris appear to be in the mix to be the starter in New Orleans.
Does Shanahan need to see more from Hightower? He returned from a 10-month layoff due to a knee injury Saturday, but carried the ball only five times (for a total of 28 yards). How about Royster? He was sidelined with a minor knee injury against the Colts but said this week he expects to play. And Morris? He broke out with a 107-yard performance Saturday but still the rookie generously listed at 5 foot 10, 218 pounds still has much to prove as a sixth round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic.
It’s also possible Shanahan has already made up his mind. If that’s the case, will his regular season starter sit with the other first teamers?
The status of Roy Helu Jr. (two sore Achilles’ tendons) remains unclear.
3) The team jettisoned two cornerbacks on Monday, waiving Morgan Trent (injury settlement) and trading Kevin Barnes to the Lions for a conditional draft pick.
That leaves the team with seven corner backs and as many as five spots to fill. DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and Cedric Griffin will be three of them. But who are the others? Seventh-round draft pick Richard Crawford has enjoyed a strong camp. But what about Brandyn Thompson, David Jones and Travon Bellamy?
Thompson, Jones and Bellamy have 60 minutes to make a strong closing argument for the final spot.
4) The kicking competition between Graham Gano and Neil Rackers never gained much traction this preseason. Now the job belongs to Billy Cundiff, who no doubt will seek to make a strong first impression.
Cundiff, long snapper Nick Sundberg, holder Sav Rocca and the rest of the field goal unit have had exactly one practice to get on the same page. Will it be a seamless integration, or does the unit need a little polish?
“The bright side for us is after this game, we’ve got nine [practice] days until we play New Orleans,” said Sundberg, who added that he worked with Cundiff previously in Baltimore.
“I know how he works, he knows how I work, so I think it will be a quicker transition than we originally thought.”