Three weeks into the Washington Redskins preseason, roster spots are being claimed and roles are being established. In the coming days we’ll take a look at what we have learned this preseason and which questions still need answers. First up, we take a look at a couple young players who have made the most of their chances to impress this preseason:
1) Aldrick Robinson and Richard Crawford both belong in the NFL.
Robinson and Crawford entered training camp on the roster “bubble,” battling with several other players for only one of two open roster spots at wide receiver and cornerback.
At receiver, four spots were already claimed by newly-signed free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, veteran Santana Moss and second-year player Leonard Hankerson. That left Robinson duking it out with special teams ace Anthony Armstrong, lighting-fast return man Brandon Banks, intriguing waiver pickup Dezmon Briscoe and the seemingly forgotten Terrance Austin.
Banks seems back to his 2010 form after returning a punt 91 yards for a touchdown in last week’s preseason matchup against the Chicago Bears, and Briscoe also looked good while hauling in three receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
But Robinson (and rooke quarterback Kirk Cousins) stole the show at Soldier Field, catching six passes for 104 yards, including one that went for a 49-yard touchdown after Robinson caught the ball at about the 35-yard line, cut to his left and outraced Chicago’s secondary to the endzone. Robinson has eight receptions for 132 yards so far in the preseason and has displayed his speed, solid hands and versatility — each of his receptions seem to have come on different routes. Solidly built despite being listed at only 5’10″ and 181 pounds, Robinson has the skill set to replace Moss in the slot in a couple years and has not had issues getting off the line and open against backup defenders like Banks, whom Head Coach Mike Shanahan has said will need to make the team as a receiver and not just a returner.
Meanwhile, Anthony Armstrong has battled injuries this preseason — though he’s expected to play Saturday against the Colts — and Terrence Austin has been MIA, catching just one pass for 11 yards, a 25.5-yard average on two kick returns and two special teams tackles.
Robinson has thus far separated himself from the pack and, barring a catastrophic injury or drop-off in performance in weeks three and four of the preseason, should be on the team whether Shanahan opts to keep five or six receivers.
As for Crawford, he’s arguably been this year’s version of Jarvis Jenkins — a rookie who has made a large impression in camp and backed it up in preseason games. Let’s hope Crawford’s rookie season doesn’t end up like Jenkins’s, because he could help a Redskins secondary that it expected to struggle this year.
Behind starting cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, Crawford has been easily the most impressive of the four corners angling for the two or three reserve spots at the position. He has shown discipline and patience both in coverage and while blitzing from the slot. Unlike the rest of the team, Crawford has actually held onto an interception, in Week One of the preseason against the Buffalo Bills. Neither Kevin Barnes, Brandyn Thompson nor Cedric Griffin (who’s looked particularly bad) have distinguished themselves.
Simply put, both Robinson and Crawford look like they belong. Neither are high draft picks, but it’s hard to argue that they haven’t looked the part thus far in the preseason.