Washington Redskins bubble players spent Thursday awaiting their fate as the team’s coaches and front office members conducted evaluations and decided which 22 prospects they would cut by Friday night’s 9 p.m. deadline.
Players had Thursday off from practice but were told to expect news. As of Thursday evening, though, it appeared that the 40-something players whose futures hung in the balance had yet to be notified of their status. And so, the waiting continued.
“You just kind of keep the phone nearby,” third-year wide receiver Anthony Armstrong said after Wednesday night’s preseason finale — the last audition for roster hopefuls — as he prepared to wait out cut-down day. “You hope you don’t see that 703 number from Redskins Park come up. But, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Usually, no news is good news.”
Armstrong is one of the players believed to be on the bubble despite spending the past two seasons on Washington’s roster. He opened training camp having to battle for a spot on an upgraded receiver unit. The Redskins’ second-leading wideout in 2010, he figured to be a key piece to the puzzle last season, but after pulling a hamstring and missing time early in the season, he never recaptured his form.
Armstrong watched as the Redskins signed free agent receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan this past offseason, and he entered training camp fifth on the depth chart behind the two additions and holdovers Leonard Hankerson and Santana Moss.
A partially separated shoulder – suffered on a hard fall during the second week of camp — sidelined Armstrong for two preseason games, and he only got onto the field for one snap in the third matchup.
He entered Wednesday’s contest needing to prove to coaches that he could still make plays both on offense and on special teams, where he previously contributed as a gunner on the punt and kickoff units.
Armstrong delivered with two catches for 61 yards, with a 46-yard bomb caught over the shoulder with a defensive back blanketing him served as the highlight.
“You hope that it shines enough in the coaches’ minds that they want to keep you around,” Armstrong said. “You hope so. It was unfortunate to have the shoulder injury in training camp and then miss a lot of time and have to get back into football shape. But hopefully a strong performance tonight and limited action last week helps out. And hopefully the stuff from the past weighs heavily in their minds, too.”
Armstrong noted how the depth at his position had improved since he arrived in Washington. He made the roster in 2010 as part of a receiving corps that included ineffective, aging veterans such as Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams, who posted a combined 20 catches for 282 yards that year. Two years later, the landscape included Armstrong, Dezmon Briscoe (who led Tampa Bay with six touchdowns last season and recorded two touchdowns in the preseason), promising young holdovers Aldrick Robinson (eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown this preseason), Terrence Austin (five catches, 52 yards; 25.2 yards per kick return) and speedy return man Brandon Banks (91-yard punt return for a touchdown and three catches for 54 yards) all battling for the final two spots on the unit.
Despite his two touchdown catches, more than any wideout on the team this preseason, Briscoe still saw himself at a disadvantage as final cuts loomed.
“I felt like I had a good camp and think I had good preseason as well, offensively,” Briscoe said. “Thing about it is, I didn’t take a snap on special teams, and that’s probably going to take its toll when it comes down to the final cut at the wideout position. Because, you know, the Aldrick Robinsons, the Brandon Bankses, the Anthony Armstrongs all contributed on special teams. So they’ll be looking at that as well.”
Linebacker represented the most crowded position on the defense. Starters Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, London Fletcher, Perry Riley and backups Lorenzo Alexander and Rob Jackson all are set to make the roster. But veterans Chris Wilson, Ryan Kehl and Markus White and rookie Keenan Robinson faced uncertain odds as they hoped to earn one of the final two or three spots. Undrafted rookies D.J. Holt and Brian McNally weren’t expected to survive cuts.
Wilson made a strong case for himself last week when he recorded a sack for a safety and three quarterback pressures against the Indianapolis Colts.
On Wednesday, Kehl provided the highlight with an interception and six tackles. It marked a bit of redemption for Kehl, who in two previous weeks dropped balls that he should have picked off. But against Tampa Bay, he made a diving catch at Washington’s 6-yard line and then got up and returned the ball 43 yards before being tackled.
“My thoughts coming into the game were lay it out there on the line and let the chips fall where they fall. I felt like I did that,” Kehl said. “I laid everything out there, I gave my all, and they have tough decisions to make. But I’m at peace with how I played.”
Rookie cornerback Richard Crawford shared similar sentiments. He found himself locked in a competition with veterans David Jones and Brandyn Thompson and fellow first-year player Travon Bellamy for one of the final spots at his position, and on Wednesday recorded his second interception of the preseason.
But a sub-par outing the week before, when he played despite being so sick that he threw up on the field a couple times and said that he found himself seeing double, stood out in his mind as possible blotches on his record.
“I’m new to this business, so I don’t really have a confidence level,” said Crawford, a seventh-round pick out of SMU. “I’ll be by my phone tomorrow and see what happens — tomorrow or Friday — I don’t really even know what day it is. I had my ups and downs. It really didn’t help that I played sick. I wish I could’ve felt better. But you have to do what you’ve got to do for the team.”