This week's Friday Stat of the Week will not focus on one specific number, but rather on the overall production by Mason/Brennan Hype! Award frontrunner Rashad Ross. For more on him, check out my profile on the speedy receiver from July.
Though not a lock for a roster spot, Ross has distinguished himself throughout the preseason as both a reliable and an electric receiver. He passed the production test and the eye test, and it's hard not to be excited for the third-year player out of Butte College and Arizona State.
Before coming to the Washington Redskins, Ross had played in just two games as a pro, in which he was used exclusively as a kick returner. Even in his two previous preseasons — with the Tennessee Titans in 2013 and the Chicago Bears in 2014 — he managed just four catches for 142 yards. He topped those numbers easily this preseason, piling up five catches in the first game and passing the 142-yard mark in the third quarter of the third game. The touchdown he caught in the second game was his first in preseason or regular season action, then he added two more scores against the Baltimore Ravens.
Not only has he been better than he's ever been (classic), but he's been better than any other Redskins receiver this preseason.
Through three games, Ross had nearly twice as many receptions as any other player on the team — 15 for Ross, Ryan Grant was next with eight followed by Andre Roberts with seven — and his three receiving touchdowns were more than the rest of the team combined (two). Ross' 163 receiving yards were easily tops on the team, with Grant's 100 coming in a distant second.
And on a larger scale, Ross was among the league's most productive receivers in the preseason. Before Thursday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ross led the NFL in total catches and was tied with Fred Williams of the Kansas City Chiefs for the league lead in touchdown receptions. He was fifth in total receiving yards, but each of the players in front of him on that list — Martavis Bryant, Chris Givens, Golden Tate, Brandin Cooks — will likely be starting receivers this season.
And all that was before he went off against the Jaguars. Ross racked up 10 catches for 103 yards and a score in what was easily the best showing of his pro career.
The Skins receiver finished the preseason with 25 catches (eight more than any other player in the NFL and 17 more than any other Redskins player), 266 yards (23 more than any other player in the league and 166 more than any other Redskins player) and four touchdowns (one more than any other player in the NFL and two more than the rest of the Redskins combined).
Despite putting together the most productive preseason of any receiver in the league, Ross has his work cut out for him to simply make the Redskins roster. Barring injuries, there are five receivers who are virtually guaranteed a roster spot: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Ryan Grant and Jamison Crowder. Ross will have to fight off Evan Spencer, who is dealing with a concussion but offers more special teams versatility and has the benefit of being drafted by Scot McCloughan. Reggie Bell and Colin Lockett were on the radar, but it's going to come down to Ross or Spencer, or perhaps both.
Personally, my vote goes to Ross. The most convincing argument I've seen for why Spencer should get the final receiver spot, assuming Washington only carries six into the season, is that he offers a different blend of skills than any other receiver expected to make the team. At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, Spencer is two inches taller than any other receiver on the roster, and only Garcon (216 pounds) is heavier. Ross, listed at 6 feet and 181 pounds, does not offer the red-zone potential that Spencer does.
But here's the thing: Ross and Spencer are competing for the sixth WR spot. That's not a job that warrants much playing time if the guys higher on the depth chart are healthy; the sixth receiver is kind of like a backup quarterback in that he's only really there to play in an emergency (insert appropriate Redskins quarterback joke). Sure, Spencer might warrant a few looks even when all other receivers are healthy. But if Jackson is injured — a real possibility considering he's been nursing a shoulder injury all preseason — the Redskins don't really have a burner on the roster, and Ross could fill that role.
And if it gets to the point that the sixth WR on the depth chart is playing significant snaps, I want the guy who has proven capable, even if just in preseason, as opposed to the guy who fits the niche of simply being big. Ross has shown he can produce, Spencer has not.
Ross has earned a roster spot. Give it to him.