Second-year wide receiver Aldrick Robinson has been in that spot as well, but only once. He didn’t make it, instead spending all but one game last season on Washington’s practice squad.
Entering the Redskins’ second preseason game Saturday at Chicago, both players believe their current predicaments will help them endure the coming weeks and earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. Austin and Robinson are competing with Brandon Banks, Anthony Armstrong and Dezmon Briscoe for the final few receiver slots.
Austin didn’t make the team his rookie season in 2010. He spent a majority of that campaign on the practice squad but earned spot on the team last season. In 13 games, Austin tallied 12 catches for 137 yards and contributed on special teams. He said Thursday that consistency is vital in the final few weeks of preseason, but so is making a splash.
“As a slot receiver, I want to be able to be automatic in situations like third down or whenever my number is called on to make the play,” Austin said. “In a crucial situation like third down or a game-winning touchdown or something like that, I have to make those plays.
In practice, he said, he’s been working to give the team’s quarterbacks confidence that he can get open on any play.
“I know what the coaches are expecting of me,” Austin said. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is “trying to put the best 53 together, and the best way to show him that I’m worthy of that is to go out there and make plays. That’s what I know has to be done after these last few years.”
Robinson described remaining on the practice squad until last season’s final week “a grind,” but said the experience was helpful. It gave him an opportunity to hone his route-running skills and grow more familiar with the team’s offensive system.
Now he’s trying to do what Austin did in his second year – make the jump out of training camp from practice squad to active roster. He said his speed and his knowledge of the offense are his greatest assets.
During the preseason opener last week at Buffalo, Robinson caught both of the passes that were thrown to him and registered 28 receiving yards. He said he wants to build off that performance Saturday.
“I’ve got a little momentum heading into the second preseason game because I feel like I did well in the first one,” Robinson said. “I had a couple catches in a couple key moments.”
To augment their chances of making the team, both players also have spent time in practice returning punts. Robinson said he never served as a punt returner in college at Southern Methodist, but noted “all you’ve got to do is just know where it’s going, and the rest will take care of itself.”
It may or may not be quite that simple, but possessing a more diverse skill set certainly won’t hurt either player’s chances of avoiding a pink slip.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Are you stressing?’ or, ‘Is this something that you’re worried about?’” Austin said. “I mean, this is all I know is competing. . . I’m not nervous in any sense at all. It’s just more so like, there’s no pressure at all; this is just a game. This is what we do. I’m used to that.”