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Early Contenders for Preseason Heroes in Redskins Camp

Each summer, one or two players that are longshots to make the team become fan favorites in Redskins Nation. Here is a look at two early candidates, with plenty of additional suggestions by the commentariat.

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Every summer, Redskins fans get swept up in the story of a player that spends almost all of July and August fighting for a longshot chance to make the team. We all remember names like Marcus Mason, Marko Mitchell, Brandon Banks, Colt Brennan and even Babe Laufenberg (for those that remember back that far). Even Alfred Morris was a guy that emerged in training camp, earning both the fans' and coaches' attention by the time the regular season arrived.

In some cases, those players do make the team. In some cases, those players become successful in the league. In most cases, these kinds of players succumb to the long odds they face, failing to beat out the kind of blue-chip monsters that hold down roster spots in the NFL.

Most of the time, it is either a late-round rookie or undrafted free agent that captures the fancy of the fanbase, but I think candidates for Preseason Hero can also be players that have languished for a year on the practice squad  or inactive list. After all, you could argue that the urgency is greater for a guy who has not had a chance to see the field in the regular season and is trying to stick around another year. Some organizations would err on the side of giving the next young guy a chance to develop on the practice squad for a season before continuing to bring back veterans. Even players who have struggled through injuries that have prevented them from shining on the practice field or on gameday can also come on strong in the summer, earning extra cheers in the third and fourth preseason games from the faithful.

Regardless of how you slice it (even irregardless), there will be a guy whose name is shouted from every seat at FedEx and repeated endlessly here at Hogs Haven. Here are just a couple candidates for that honor, and I look forward to hearing who you like as a favorite here.

I rarely take such liberties, but I am invoking my managing editor privilege by making Mariel Cooper the lead dog in the undrafted free agent category. The 5'11" 180-pound defensive back can play pretty much every spot in the secondary. He has played in and studied a variety of schemes at the collegiate level and his versatility has already been on display as he has lined up in multiple corner and safety spots. He told us last week on The Audible that he is working on all four special teams units. As we know, he lost his baby brother in a tragic accident and he makes sure that every day he suits up, he plays for both him and his brother. The odds are long for Coop, but as we said on the show, he is a McLovin kind of player. He is fortunate in that the Washington secondary is far from set, but he is going to have to overtake a veteran or two to crack the final 53 man roster.

Another name that seems to already be flying around these parts is Martrell Spaight. The 2015 fifth round draft pick lost his rookie year because of a severe concussion. He enters this year's training camp/preseason as a 22-year old inside linebacker that can easily contribute on special teams right away. His ability to work into the starting inside linebacker rotation remains to be seen, but we are once again talking about a McLovin player--a hard-working, physical player that has versatility (he played outside linebacker at Arkansas). Spaight will almost certainly be identified by the Redskins faithful when he gets onto the field this preseason. It will be the development of players like Spaight that will drive our ability to be competitive late in the season, as we typically see backup linebackers thrust into front-line roles by November and December. His path to making the team might be a little surer than Cooper's, but Spaight will no doubt mount a spirited fight this summer to make his presence felt, and that is why I see him endearing himself to fans.

You guys gave me a hard time when I stole all the good answers to my own question earlier this week, so I will leave the rest of the candidates for you to make a case for and debate.