I have pointed to the ages of a large contingent of the Redskins' roster as a sign that we are in fact getting younger. That much has been unmistakable. What has remained in question is whether or not the youth on our team could actually play. There still remains some question marks, but as we head into the season, we have some answers on some of the players that simply must be able to get it done on the field, either as a starter or as a backup.
Devin Thomas - He really shined against the Patriots. I have only my tailgate-soaked memories of the game, so I will have to watch the replay on NFL Network but he looked like he belonged on the field instead of just taking up space. He made moves on both the ball and the defenders that made me feel a lot better about his role in our offense.
Malcolm Kelly - You get the feeling that he builds up a lot of confidence in his coaches and teammates all week in practice. To a man, they all talk about Malcolm getting on the field in games and making plays. He might not be a world-beater yet, but he has flashed an ability to play the ball in the air that we can only hope translates into touchdowns for us this season.
Marko Mitchell- We have yet to see him square off against the other team's starting cornerbacks for a whole game, but the word on the street is that he gets it done in practice against our starters. In the last two preseason games, he has hauled in touchdown catches from the reserve quarterback--both of which required him to catch the ball in traffic and get both feet down in bounds.
More after the jump...
Fred Davis- Sleepy has been on the field a ton this preseason. He has contributed on special teams, and he has hauled in a touchdown pass. All offseason, I have been singing his praises along with almost everyone else. He is a beast. But he still needed to get a few things clicking before he was able to be a factor on this roster. Is that a clicking sound I hear coming from #86?
I get the feeling that Coach Zorn would love nothing better than for Kelly and Thomas to push Antwaan Randle El off the field. I am not sure we are there exactly, but my gut tells me if you are listening to the radio call this season, you are going to hear Larry Michael say, "Look at this! Kelly wide to the left, Thomas wide to the right, and Fred Davis in the slot. Here we go." That formation would get Cooley and Portis on the field as well. That would be exciting.
Brian Orakpo- Another rookie who has shown he belongs on the field. His bust potential is at an all-time low following his performance this preseason thus far. He can rush the passer to be sure, and when he bones up on his linebacking skills he will be an even bigger force on this unit. So far he has been more than a few offensive linemen could handle.
Chris Horton- His impact last season waned as the year wore on, but his commitment this offseason to studying film and learning his position leads me to believe he is not a one-year wonder.
Kareem Moore - With Reed Doughty back and looking pretty strong for us at backup safety, it is less important that Moore is ready to step in right away. To be sure, he has not done anything that would push either Horton or Doughty off of the field, but he got some valuable experience this preseason. I would love to see him start standing out on special teams. Either way, we know a lot more about him this year.
Kevin Barnes - As a 3rd round draft pick, there are expectations that you are capable of coming into the league and contributing right away. For some reason though, this franchise has a way of not finding out about those expectations. Last year Chad Rinehart (a 3rd rounder) did not see enough reps even in practice for anyone to know much about him, and that is unacceptable. Barnes got burned early in the preseason and then against New England, he made a play. I won't say that he is ready to play most downs right this second, but the coaches have some tape of this guy now and I am confident that Blache can use it to bring him along. We are fortunate that we do not need to force him into the fire right away, but if we had to, it would seem we could do worse.
Because of the way the team spends its money, the roster has been top-heavy for a while now. On "paper", you would have said our starters were capable of causing damage in the league every year going back a ways. But one or two injuries forced us to rely on guys we knew literally nothing about. Or even worse, it forced us to rely on guys everyone else in the league knew enough about--like they weren't any good.
Look, this team has some major areas that need to be bolstered by quality young talent. AHEM....offensive line...cough, cough. But isn't it refreshing to know that our bench has a few players capable of stepping up and contributing right now at positions (like wide receiver) that have for so long been bare? I am encouraged. I am still not ready to sing the praises of Vinny Cerrato, but if he comes back next season and hauls in a few offensive linemen in the draft, I will be a lot closer.
In the last preseason game, we will get a healthy dose of young players. But the real work has been done. This week, guys like Cody Glenn and Robert Henson will be making their case to be a factor in the team's long-term plans. I can only guess that the team likes something from at least one of these guys, or Alfred Fincher would still be here. If you recall, it was the 4th preseason game last year where Fincher really made a name for himself. My guess is they are going to give one of the guys that Vinny drafted a chance to make the team and, at the same time, make Vinny look good.
What do you guys think?