Cassanova McKinzy can lock down a Redskins roster spot with a strong preseason
The Washington Redskins have some talent at the rush linebacker position, but they are a bit top-heavy. That will give a guy like Cassanova McKinzy a chance to make the 53-man roster with a strong preseason.
The NFL offseason often has players step up that few expect. Every year, a guy comes out of nowhere in camp to impress the coaching staff and earn a spot on the roster. Sometimes, all it takes is a solid camp and one standout performance in the preseason to make the active roster. The Redskins saw this happen last year with receiver Cam Sims, and it could happen again in 2019.
This year, the most likely candidate to have a breakout preseason is Cassanova McKinzy. The former undrafted free agent out of Auburn in 2016 and has been on three different NFL teams since then, including the Redskins. Last year, he got the first NFL action of his career as a late-season addition from the Washington practice squad. He dressed for three games and had one tackle before going out for the season with a pectoral injury.
This offseason, McKinzy was a bit of a forgotten man for the ‘Skins. With many players returning from injury and the squad investing draft picks first and seventh-round draft picks into the edge position (Montez Sweat and Jordan Brailford), it seemed that McKinzy would just remain with the team as depth on the edge. And maybe he would have a shot to make the practice squad where he had spent much of the previous season.
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However, so far in camp, McKinzy has flashed a bit. He has great speed off the edge, and that has helped him to stand out among his competition. He has also benefitted from the absence of Brailford, who has missed time with a groin issue and tweaked the injury in a recent practice. At this point in time, it seems possible that Brailford could be an injury stash at least to start his rookie season.
Though McKinzy has looked good in camp so far, the preseason will really be his chance to shine. He should see a good chunk of playing time in the upcoming games, especially with Brailford out for the foreseeable future. If he can use his edge to dominate backup offensive linemen, that could give him enough positive momentum to make the roster as the fourth edge rusher. And all it takes is one stand-out performance for a guy like McKinzy to do enough to stay on the roster.
The Redskins have lacked speed on the edge for quite a while, and though the addition of Sweat should help to fix that, having a speed-based backup could be a smart move. McKinzy would be a nice complement to the run-oriented, edge-setting Ryan Anderson, so the team could use the duo situationally to spell Ryan Kerrigan and Sweat.
McKinzy is definitely a player to keep an eye on in the preseason and he should be watched closely in Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns. If he can grab a sack or two, that will continue to give him positive momentum in the lead-up to the 2019 NFL season.