There has been an awakening. Have you felt the hype? Seven long football-free months come a glorious end, and with it a new set of fresh-faced phenoms that other 31 NFL franchises were foolish enough to pass over. Names like Lache Seastrunk, Sultan McCullough, Nehemiah Broughton, and Brandon Banks, who slipped through the cracks. All of them, legends in the making during training camp and the preseason, eventually relegated to the practice squad, the lower echelons of the depth chart, or on to greener pastures. We welcome them with arms wide open, knowing that after going through the rock tumbler of off-season workouts, mini-camp, and preseason, we have found our gems in burgundy and gold.
Coming out of training camp and into week 1 of the preseason, we take a moment to commemorate two of the best and brightest, Marcus Mason and Colt Brennan, supernovas whose outsized hype collapsed in on itself like a dying star, before they could cast their sheen of excellence during meaningful Sunday contests.
The Mason/Brennan award is presented each week of the preseason to the player who has received the most hype, as voted upon by you, the fans. This week's vote will cover the offseason, draft, OTAs/mini-camps, and training camp in preparation for the first preseason matchup of the year.
1. Player must have been drafted late or signed by the Redskins as an undrafted free agent. Players that have only been on other teams practice squads that are signed by the team are also eligible.
2. A player that has been on the team for several years is still eligible if most of that time has been spent on the practice squad, inactive, or with very limited productivity/time
3. The Pat White Rule: High draft picks (busts/out of the league) from other teams who have never completed an NFL pass, but can run the read option/wildcat are eligible.
The list of nominees are subject to change week-to-week in order to account for roster moves, and players who ride the hype-scalator up or down based on their performance. Read up, place your vote for who is most deserving of the hype, and feel free to write-in who you think is worthy of being nominated as we head into preseason matchup number 1.
1. Keith Marshall, RB - Sitting third on the depth chart behind a set of backs that on occasion struggle to stay healthy and hold onto the football is not a bad place to be coming out of training camp. Marshall enters the first preseason matchup sandwiched between the more experienced players (Matt Jones and Chris Thompson) and the rest of the crew vying for reps (Mack Brown, Robert Kelley and Kelsey Young), which means he will likely play about a quarter of the contest against Atlanta as the feature ball carrier. Marshall, who logged the fastest 40-yard dash of any running back at the 2016 NFL Combine, is tasked with showing off his capacity to juke, cut, and move laterally after developing a reputation for durability issues, and an inability to serve as a workhorse lead back. Provided he can show flashes of athleticism, he lines up perfectly for Mason/ Brennan recognition. While the coaching staff is likely going to try to get as many different players into the mix on special teams, Marshall is listed as the third kick returner to get things going in their first preseason game against Atlanta, and has a fine opportunity to break off a long run back that might help his case for the award.
2. Lynden Trail, OLB - When most of us last saw Lynden Trail, he was being verbally abused by Mike Vrabel on last season’s HBO miniseries "Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans." Interspersed between scenes putting J.J. Watt’s grittiness on full display, ("He stays late after practice! He has a log cabin in the middle of the woods! He set up a bed to sleep at the team facility, what a guy!") we were afforded the opportunity to see firsthand the challenges of trying to make an NFL roster as an undrafted rookie free agent by profiling Trail’s preseason. In terms of performance potential, Trail’s 6'7" frame, 32.5" vertical, and underrated quickness off the snap, all project well for the local product out of Norfolk State. Perhaps being sentenced to time-out by his All-Pro former position coach in Houston will have him more adequately prepared to emerge from a crowded group of outside linebackers this time around.
5. Lloyd Carrington, CB - You've got to admire a guy who creates his own hype! particularly when it comes to standing out among this talented group of defensive backs. If the whole playing professional football thing doesn't work out for Carrington, he definitely has a bright future as a social media manager, having curated several of his more impressive and photogenic moments including the top Zapruder film/ highlight reel mashup of the offseason:
Just one or two plays like that in a game situation in the next month, and Carrington will turn the hype! up to 11.
6. Kendal Thompson, WR - He joins a very crowded and competitive field of receivers, having joined the squad as a late addition to the roster in the days leading up to camp. Thompson, a former mobile college-quarterback-turned-pro-receiver finished off his college career at Utah after transferring from Oklahoma. He gets the Pat White treatment here because it has been far too long since we have been privileged to witness a wide receiver complete a pass attempt (go all the way back to week 13 of the 2011 season, a Brandon Banks 49-yard TOUCHDOWN! to Santana Moss) so yeah, we kind of deserve this. C'mon Kendal, make the hype! happen.
7. Marcel Jensen, TE - Hang on, just hear me out. The Redskins are a team that has one of the strongest and deepest groups of tight ends in the league. There’s a good chance they go into week 1 with four tight ends on the roster, as they perform more efficiently on offense in multi-TE sets. Logan Paulsen, who sits ahead of Jensen on the inside track for the fourth spot on the depth chart, had his entire 2015 season wiped out after he suffered a toe injury in the preseason a year ago. Jordan Reed will not be playing in Atlanta, and given the importance of the Redskins 2015 leading receiver as a target for Kirk Cousins, it might be best if he spends the rest of camp bound in bubble wrap, surrounded by armed guards. This opens up the door for Jensen, who measures 6'6", to compete for a spot, and you better bet he's going to do all he can to bring the hype!
8. Martrell Spaight, ILB - After being drafted in the 5th round (151st overall) last year out of Arkansas, Spaight earned a spot on the roster out of camp. However, just nine snaps into his debut season, he suffered a season-ending concussion. This backdrop sets up a perfect storm of hype! for this season, as Spaight returns as a repeat Mason/Brennan nominee. The bar is set high when for a guy whose college teammates referred to hitting hard as "Spaighting" but Coach Gruden seems to be buying in this offseason and doling out the praise of his own:
"Martrell [is a] very productive player. A one-year player who really did some things in college as a linebacker, physical linebacker. Makes a ton of plays. Very, very productive in the games that he played. Very exciting. He likes to hit, you can see that. He doesn’t back down from any contact. He’ll be a player to be reckoned with."
It’s not a stretch to imagine that he is worthy of Mason/ Brennan recognition, I mean, just take a look at this guy:
I bet you just learned about a bunch of muscles that you didn’t know existed.
9. Nila Kasitati, OG - When it comes to offensive linemen, the less you hear about them, the better they've done their job. More often than not, when a guy is being talked about for his performance on the O-Line, it is because he is either really, really exceptional, or horribly, terribly mistake-prone. Here’s the deal though: sometimes the hype! has nothing to do with what happens on the field. I don’t want to sell Kasitati short, because maybe he ends up being a valuable fill-in at guard, but without a doubt his hype! comes from the fact that he is pretty darn good at non-football extracurriculars. Check out his rookie talent show video:
Niles Paul (@Niles_Paul84) August 4, 2016
Truly heartwarming. Also, for what it's worth, Coach Gruden was impressed:
"Very good. It was excellent. You know, he even got the flashlights or whatever it was with the camera phones. He was good because we’ve had some pretty poor performances up to that point. I think Nate Sudfeld, he didn’t get on TV because he was so bad as a singer he got booed off the stage. [Josh] Doctson got booed off the stage. We’ve had a couple guys get booed off the stage, so it’s been a tough crowd."
Coach really knocking the glory boy, first-round draft pick down a few pegs there.
However, Will Compton's grainy Twitter-concert video does not begin to do Kasitati justice. Here he is with former OU teammate and sidekick Jed Barnett Russell Athletic Bowl Kickoff Luncheon:
Or how about when the dynamic duo went to perform at the Children’s Hospital at the OU Medical Center for sick kids, or when they showed off their sick gymnastics choreography skills to celebrate Sooners gymnastics championship? That’s right folks, we have a literal combination of Fergie and Jesus on the roster. Nila Kasitati is the kind guy you want to bring home for the holidays and wear matching sweaters with, so let the hype! wash over you.