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Did Redskins find sack specialist gem in Houston Bates?

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Did Redskins find sack specialist gem in Houston Bates?

Redskins GM Scot McCloughan made a name for himself finding players that other scouts and personnel men passed over. Stops in Seattle and San Francisco proved McCloughan's ability to find talented players late in the draft, or even after the draft as rookie free agents.

While it's certainly too early to proclaim Houston Bates another McCloughan success, the undrafted rookie linebacker out of Louisiana Tech has made quite an impression. In two preseason games, Bates has logged three sacks, and in Thursday night's preseason game against the Lions, Bates entered the game in the first half with many Redskin starters still on the field. 

"I don't try to read into the timing when I go into the game," Bates said Saturday on a call with reporters. "I have to be ready at all times."

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With the departure of Brian Orakpo, a position is open on the Redskins linebacking group. Second year man Trent Murphy or rookie Preston Smith looked to be fighting for 'Rak's old spot early in training camp, but the addition of Junior Galette could change that. Regardless, Bates could provide good depth at OLB as his ability to pressure quarterbacks in the preseason gives him a chance to impress coaches. But beyond rushing the QB, Bates knows the key to a roster spot will be special teams.

"I know the importance of special teams in the NFL," Bates said. "A guy like me being an undrafted free agent, that's going to be key."

Injuries to Adam Hayward, Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul mean that there are opportunities on the Redskins special teams, and Bates knows he needs to take advantage.

"I'm just glad the Washington Redskins gave me a chance to show my talent," Bates said. 

Typically a player from a smaller school like Louisiana Tech would have a tough time adjusting to the NFL, but Bates is not a typical small school player. He started his career in the Big Ten at Illinois before transferring back to his home state of Louisiana. Throughout college, Bates played D-end and showed an ability to sack the QB. In his final collegiate game, Bates registered 4.5 sacks in a bowl win over Illinois, a serendipitous moment if there ever was one.

To play in the Redskins 3-4 scheme, Bates will likely need to switch to outside linebacker as he doesn't have the size to play the defensive end role in that system.

"I've learned a lot," he said. "The speed of the game is a lot different."

Despite the position change, Bates said the transition is going relatively smooth.

"It's pretty much the same technique, just at a higher speed," Bates said. When the season ended at Louisiana Tech, Bates said, "pretty much all I did was train for NFL linebacker."

A self-described "tweener," Bates may have a low profile after being undrafted out of Louisiana Tech. Fans should be careful to expect too little from Bates though, as he was an All Big Ten honorable mention player in 2013 and has shown an ability to pressure QBs throughout his career, a skill every NFL team values.

"At the end of the day it's football," Bates said of trying to change positions.

The Redskins invested heavily in their defensive line this offseason, though the linebacking group did not see a tremendous influx of talent outside of the drafting of Smith. Bates said he will be ready for his chance, per the instruction of defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

"Barry says everybody is a starter in waiting," Bates explained. "I'll play linebacker or defensive end, whatever they need me to do."

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Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Following the Redskins' Week 2 preseason win over the Jets on Thursday, Jay Gruden said both Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine were "OK" after the two running backs each left the game with injuries. Marshall's was labeled a lower-leg issue, while Perine's injury was called a twisted ankle.

Timetables for their recoveries were then reported on Friday, and while the two members of the backfield escaped anything too severe, they will each be sidelined for decent chunks of time.

Perine will miss a week, according to Mike Garafolo. Marshall, meanwhile, is looking at a longer two-to-four week recovery, per Tom Pelissero. Those pieces of news hurt them in more ways than one.

Derrius Guice's torn ACL in Week 1 of the team's exhibition schedule meant that Marshall and Perine both had a big-time opportunity to step up and earn a spot on Washington's 53-man roster, spots that were harder to envision for them when Guice was healthy.

Overall, the two were slated to compete with Kapri Bibbs for what will likely be two spaces on the depth chart behind the absolutely safe Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. Now, though, they'll be forced to sit until they're healed up, giving Bibbs more chances in practice and the two remaining August contests to earn Jay Gruden's trust.

Against New York, Bibbs struggled on the ground but led the offense with seven grabs, including a 29-yard gain off a screen play. That performance absolutely brought him closer in the race with Marshall, who scored vs. the Patriots a week earlier. Next, he'll need to prove he can run effectively between the tackles vs. the Broncos in Week 3, which will put some heat on Perine as well.

The 'Skins have 15 days left until they have to finalize their regular season roster. As things stand now amongst the running backs, Bibbs presently has a real shot at stealing a job from the two shelved RBs. But with the way this race has unfolded thus far, that can all change in a split second. 

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Redskins 53-man roster projection, ver. 2.0

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Redskins 53-man roster projection, ver. 2.0

<< Click here to see Redskins 53-man roster projection ver. 2.0 >>

The Redskins are halfway through the preseason and the first two games may have done more to muddy the waters when it comes to who will make the 53-man roster than they did to clarify things. 

Here is my second training camp prediction of who will make the final cut for the Redskins. See where players are safe and where the hot spots are for competition. 

Among the big battles taking shape:

—An injury and one player’s impressive preseason have juggled the wide receiver depth chart. 

—With Orlando Scandrick cut, the cornerback position looks set but the rookies had better not do anything to shake the coaches’ confidence in them. 

—There are seven safeties who may be worthy of roster spots, but only four are likely to make it. 

—Despite the Hogan-led rally last night, it still looks like the roster will have only two QBs. 

<< Click here to see Redskins 53-man roster projection ver. 2.0 >>

Redskins 2018 news:

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-Analysis: Five Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler