Hurricane Hermine cast a spell of harsh weather on the southeast, which meant that the Redskins’ matchup with the Bucs was moved up one day to Wednesday night. While this created a conflict with the team’s annual charitable foundation luncheon, for our purposes, the storm served as a disruption for our schedule of weekly Mason/Brennan nominee consideration.
So, because we here at Hogs Haven have little to no fear of the shame that bold, yet potentially unfulfilled predictions may bring, we present to you our 2016 Mason/Brennan extravaganza finale on the morning of roster cut-down day. Yes, this means that by sometime within hours of publication, there is a chance several of the names on this list might be relegated to the practice squad or could even be cut loose, forced to extend their NFL careers elsewhere. But, for our purposes we witness and celebrate the culmination of Redskins preseason hype so that these players shall forever live on in the hearts and minds of those passionate enough to spend time considering preseason football.
As the preseason draws to a close, it’s time to decide who is the hype-worthiest player on the team as we commemorate and celebrate two of the best and brightest Redskins past preseason stars, Marcus Mason and Colt Brennan. While there may not be another player as deserving of the preseason hype they instilled, it is in their memory we continue to recognize the players who grind and fight, even when (almost) no one is watching.
The Mason/Brennan Hype! Award is presented each week of the preseason to the player who receives the most hype, as voted upon by you, the fans. This week's vote will cover the entirety of the preseason as we prepare for final roster cut downs.
1. Player must have been drafted late (let's say after the third round) or signed by the Redskins as an undrafted free agent. Players who have only been on other teams practice squads before being signed by the team are also eligible.
2. A player who 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 playing 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.
Read up, place your vote for who is most deserving of the hype, and, as we head into the end of the preseason, feel free to write-in any player that you think was snubbed from the list.
Our final candidates for the 2016 Mason/Brennan Award are:
Mack Brown, RB - From seemingly out of nowhere, Mack Brown turned in the break-out performance he needed in the final preseason matchup of the year. He tallied the most rushing yards in a single preseason game by a Redskin with 19 carries, 149 yards, and a 60-yard touchdown dash, which has vaulted him back into the Mason/Brennan conversation.
It seems rather fitting, that Brown's 227 total preseason yards are second only to M/B namesake, Marcus Mason's 317 yards in 2008. All of this is made more impressive given the context that Brown put up his totals in one fewer game and with 27 fewer carries than Mason did. Not for nothing, Brown also led all running backs in rushing yards this preseason.
Coach Gruden had plenty of praise for his tailback prospects following the game against Tampa, which bodes well for their inclusion in the final 53:
"Mack makes some big runs and some big plays, I was happy to see Mack. I think he really did show up. It’s making the decision even tougher. Hopefully we can figure out a way to keep all of them but we’ll get together as a scouting staff and coaching staff, and figure it out."
Robert Kelley, RB - Kelley finished the preseason with the second most rushing yards (38 carries, 198 yards, 1 TD) of anyone in the NFL (only behind Mack Brown.) Their combined efforts may have fended off any external running back competition via free agency. With Keith Marshall on the shelf for the foreseeable future due to injuries, and the uncertainty surrounding Matt Jones’ health and ball-carrying ability, Kelley has taken full advantage of the opportunities afforded to him as a preseason starter, and is all but assured of a spot on the team going into week 1. He also had an opportunity to show that he is capable of playing against more than fellow roster spot-seekers, having amassed 51 yards on 12 carries against the Bills’ first-team defense in the Redskins’ 21-16 week 3 win over Buffalo.
After signing as an undrafted free agent, Kelley has impressed Coach Gruden who praised him for "taking advantage [of his] reps," adding that he "made great cuts, had great vision, we could see that on the inside runs and some of the outside runs he had good patience, protected the ball and he’s caught the ball well."
Austin Reiter, C - The Bryan Stork Era (8/24/2016 - 8/29/2016) was a short-lived yet torrid affair that will likely serve as a forgotten chapter in franchise history. However, the five-day saga culminated in two meaningful outcomes: 1. Kory Lichtensteiger took a pay cut, and 2. Austin Reiter got the message loud and clear that there was work to be done to shore up confidence in the center position.
In game number four, Reiter looked as good as he has all preseason. For the sake of avoiding repetition for the rest of this article, I’ll throw out the disclaimer here that all performances in Tampa were against third and fourth stringers so we can get that qualifier out of the way.
Reiter was on the field for all 61 of the Redskins offensive snaps on Wednesday, and the results speak for themselves, particularly in the running game. Reiter did exactly what he needed to do to both stay in the conversation for the Mason/ Brennan and make a legitimate case for a roster spot.
Nate Sudfeld, QB - Sudfeld got the starting nod in Tampa, and was given a very limited set of plays to show off his skills. By and large, he did what was asked of him, which mostly consisted of throwing six-yard comeback routes and handing off the ball without tripping over his own feet. At the end of his first professional preseason, Sudfeld proved himself to be a capable project quarterback that can manage a game in a pinch, but will have fans really hoping that never ends up being the case.
His final overall stat line (28/53, 238 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 52.8 comp %, 83.7 QBR) paints a picture of a player who has a good chance of sticking around in the NFL but has a-ways to go before he’s considered to be in the hunt for a starting job… Although I hear that the Vikings are in need of some help and I suppose he’s worthy of parting with, if the price is right.
Lynden Trail, OLB - I don’t envy the decision-makers who have to determine what to do with Lynden Trail. Just about any other year, he would be a lock on this team, but not so in 2016. Both Trail and Houston Bates are going to fight it out for the final OLB spot, and it will be an extremely close call. The two have nearly identical stat lines through preseason play. Bates has the leg up in game experience, but Trail’s size, athleticism, and special teams performance have been plenty deserving of the recognition he’s garnered this year. What the Redskins' brass feels though remains to be seen.
Maurice Harris, WR - Entering the preseason, Harris looked like a player who fit the mold of a Mason/Brennan nominee. He’s big and strong, played with top talent at the college level, and was considered one of the top UDFA’s following the draft. Ultimately, Harris turned in a solid, but largely unspectacular preseason, playing sparingly on special teams, and doing little to transcend his competition on offense. I won’t go as far as to write Harris off, but potential alone may not be enough to earn more than a spot on the practice squad this year.
Keith Marshall, RB - Marshall sprained his left elbow on his first carry against Buffalo, but prior to his injury the 7th-round pick out of Georgia had not done much to make the impression that he was markedly better than his fellow running back camp competition. The team avoided having to make the really difficult decisions with Marshall having placed him on the reserve/ injured list.
In college, Marshall suffered a torn ACL and played second fiddle to Todd Gurley, but his stock was high following his combine where he recorded a 4.31 40-yard dash and 25 bench reps. His combination of breakaway speed and 5-foot-11 frame had some fans salivating at the prospect that Marshall might be able to serve as a top-3 back on this squad. Ultimately that hype may need to be put on hold until next year while he works to recover from his injury this season.
Deshazor Everett, S - I’ll admit, outside of the linebackers, there hasn’t been much Mason/ Brennan hype attention paid to eligible members of the defense this year. When you consider that this group may be one of the best secondary’s not only in recent team history, but in the entire league this season, it’s easy to overlook some of the depth guys seeking to make an impression. But in the case of Deshazor Everett it’s better late than never.
Everett is arguably ineligible for Mason/ Brennan recognition (feel free to discuss that in the comments below) based on having played 11 games (with no offensive unit starts) last year. When he saw the field it was primarily on special teams, and he led the Redskins in ST tackles in 2015. This preseason, he led the team by racking up 17 tackles (14 solo, 3 assisted) and added 1 forced fumble. He also gets a tip-drill assist on Duke Ihenacho’s spectacularly athletic diving interception against the Buccaneers.
Over the past several weeks, he went from being a solid special teamer, to a player who we can feel comfortable filling in on the secondary this season. Everett embodies the type of success story you like to see from a team that has made a concerted commitment to developing their talent from within.
Kendal Thompson, WR - Thompson survived the first round of cuts that winnowed the squad down to 75 men, making it further than fellow wideouts Valdez Showers, Dez Stewart, and Jarvis Turner. However, Thompson had just the one catch that earned him a nomination last week (it was a beauty), to show for his preseason output.
In reality, he probably hasn’t done enough on offense or special teams to warrant a spot in a very deep receiving corps this season. But there is very little that is rational about preseason hype so feel free to let your imagination run wild about what it would be like if Thompson makes the squad and his former teammate and good buddy, Bryce Harper roams the sidelines on Sundays, filling in for a certain native-P.G. County professional basketball player.
Martrell Spaight, ILB - Spaight, who has battled back from a season-ending concussion a year ago, has become a legitimate linebacking contender on this squad and a darling of the comments section here at Hogs Haven. But it’s not just fans who have fallen in love with Spaight (all over again) but the coaches have reserved some of their highest praise for him as well:
"It’s really amazing when you get an opportunity to be around players as rookies and then kind of see the whole growth, you know, and especially with Spaight’s situation with getting hurt and missing the whole year," [Defensive Coordinator Joe] Barry said. "I’m proud of him with what he’s… now he’s still got a million miles to go, but the difference between Martrell Spaight Year One and Year Two, he’s building blocks, which is good. And to be able to go start a game, run the huddle, run the defense, play the entire half, play like he did, kind of drive the bus, I was very happy."
"Shoot, 10 months ago we didn’t know what was going to happen with him," Barry said. "So for him to recover like he did and have an offseason like he did, have a training camp like he did, and then be able to be put in that situation and respond the way he did, that was great to see."
What’s more, Spaight’s pump-up speech (possibly NSFW?) to the linebackers before the Buffalo game is hype distilled in its purest form:
Okay, I’m ready to run through a goddamn wall.
It's just about time for the end of the preseason... We did it everyone! Go ahead and cast your final vote for who is most hype-worthy and let us know why in the comments below!