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Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

When the Redskins open training camp in Richmond on Thursday, fans will line up to get autographs from Kirk Cousins, Josh Norman and Jordan Reed. Plenty of other players will excite the fans too as optimism rules the first few days of practice in July and August. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

There are other players that fans probably won't scream their names, but who could play a role or fight for a roster spot this fall. Winning in the NFL is almost nearly as dependent on the final 10 players on the roster as it is the first five. Depth is key, and here are a few players that fans might have forgotten about. 

  • RB Keith Marshall - The speedster out of Georgia has a wildly impressive resume - on paper - but just can't stay healthy. In college he started ahead of Todd Gurley for a time, now considered one of the best RBs in the NFL for the Rams. Marshall landed on the injured reserve last year as a rookie but looked healthy and capable at Redskins Park this offseason during OTAs and minicamp. The running back position looks quite full, but if Marshall can show his elite speed and make it through four preseason games, he just might push Mack Brown for a roster spot. 
  • LB Martrell Spaight - A tackling machine in college at Arkansas, Spaight missed most of his rookie season in 2015 before appearing in 14 games last season. Bad luck struck again, and he finished the year on the IR. With the addition of Zach Brown to the interior linebackers, Spaight might have a tough battle for a roster spot. Will Compton, Mason Foster and Brown all seem certain to make the team. Spaight could also start the year on the PUP list, which might be the surest way to stay on the Redskins.
  • LB Chris Carter - Signed as a free agent this year, the journeyman Carter has played for six teams in six years and looks poised to play the special teams role that Terence Garvin took on last year. If Carter makes the roster, that means trouble for Spaight. 
  • DL Anthony Lanier - An undrafted rookie in 2016 that didn't see much game action, Lanier has really impressed coaches with his work ethic this offseason. He has great size at 6-foot-6 and added about 20 pounds of muscle since the season ended, which should allow him the strength to handle the trenches. Lanier could be a sneaky important player this fall for Washington. 
  • S Will Blackmon - D.J. Swearinger and Su'a Cravens look to be the starting safeties for the Redskins in 2017. Swearinger has a proven track record in the NFL secondary, Cravens does not, but showed the ability to do so in college at USC. After those two, and with DeAngelo Hall on the PUP list, the Redskins lack much depth or experience in the defensive backfield. That's where Blackmon should help. A versatile veteran, Blackmon has the speed to keep up with most wideouts and is one of the more cerebral players on the defense. 

Bonus: RB Matt Jones - He might want off the Redskins roster, but that hasn't happened yet. If the team sustains any injuries at the running back position, Jones' fortunes could change quickly. 

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With three NFC East games to go, don't tell Bill Callahan that the rest of the Redskins season is meaningless

With three NFC East games to go, don't tell Bill Callahan that the rest of the Redskins season is meaningless

When December ends and a new decade is upon us, the Redskins will be doing something that's become far too familiar for the franchise over the past several years: watching the NFL playoffs from home. 

For all intents and purposes, since Washington has been officially eliminated from playoff contention following their Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the final three games of their 2019 campaign are meaningless. 

But don't tell that to interim head coach Bill Callahan.

While Callahan is likely on his way out the door after 2019 -- the team will almost certainly hire a new head coach and potentially make changes in the front office -- he still has plenty he wants to prove. And that starts with winning games in the division.

"I want to see us compete in the divisional games. We haven't been good," Callahan said. "I think we're 0-7 in our last divisional games. That hits hard. We're 0-5 against Philly in our last five games. So I'd like to see a competitive effort against the division. This is a chance to redeem ourselves in a lot of ways."

Part of the reason the Redskins have struggled to put together winning seasons over the past few years has been their struggles within the NFC East. Echoing Callahan's comments, the Burgundy and Gold have dropped seven straight divisional contests, including an 0-3 record this season. They finished 2-4 within the division in 2018 and 1-5 in 2017. The last time they finished with a division record above .500 was 2015, which was also the last time they won the division.

That record looks even worse when the NFC East is in the conversation for one of the worst divisions in NFL history. Currently, the 6-7 Dallas Cowboys hold the tiebreaker over the 6-7 Philadelphia Eagles for the top spot. 

During Washington's three divisional losses this season, it's been outscored 87-51, including an embarrassing 24-3 loss in Week 4 to the currently 2-11 New York Giants.

"These three divisional opponents, we didn't do well at the beginning of the year," Callahan said. "We've got a challenge. We have a chance to rectify that and make it right."

In what has turned into a disappointing and lost season for the Redskins, there are still a few bright spots and building blocks for the future. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin has emerged as a legit NFL wide receiver. Running back Derrius Guice has struggled to stay on the field but has been a force when playing. Dwayne Haskins has had his fair share of growing pains but also gave few glimpses of what he's capable of down the line.

Callahan wants to use the final three division games as a way to demonstrate to his young core that divisional games are one of the most critical things to succeed in the NFL.

"[I want to] really set the tone for next season. We have a lot of young players, players that are going to be here," Callahan said. "They've got to realize that the divisional games are the most critical games. Just because it does tie into your playoff factor initially. You're going to see these teams twice a year. It gives you a catalyst if you win those games and then begin to compete."

This week poses an opportunity for the Redskins to play the spoiler role. If they beat Philadelphia, the Eagles' playoff chances look bleak. Washington hasn't beaten Philadelphia since 2016.

Many current Redskins remember the image of FedEx Field in Week 17 last year. The stadium was a sea of people sporting Eagles' green and black as they shut out the Redskins, 24-0. While defeating the Eagles would not mean much in terms of the Redskins' 2019 season, a victory over Philadelphia would go a long way moving forward.

"I think our guys are all playing for something: pride," Callahan said. "Division games are always great battles. You never know how those are going to end. They're always tight, close games. This will be a lot of fun, and we're looking forward to the challenge on Sunday."

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Running back is one position where things could look very different for the 2020 Redskins

Running back is one position where things could look very different for the 2020 Redskins

Not much has gone to plan for the 2019 Redskins. Congratulations, you won't read a more obvious thing all day.

Running back is one such spot on the team where the preseason expectations haven't been met. A surprise benching in Week 1, injuries and inconsistent production have plagued what was supposed to be one of the most stacked positions on the roster.

Because of those issues, there may be a lot of RB turnover this offseason, leading to what could be a different-looking depth chart in 2020.

The main reason for that possible shuffling is Derrius Guice's unfortunate health problems. Guice has actually been placed on injured reserve twice since Week 1, with the second trip to I.R. ending his year. If you count exhibition contests, he's suited up for the Burgundy and Gold seven times as a pro and has had to leave three of those contests with knee injuries.

There was so much hope that Guice would be able to prove himself this time around and convince the Redskins he could be their go-to option for the future, and when he dominated the Panthers for 129 yards and two scores, his long-discussed talent and potential popped.

But with a torn ACL, a torn meniscus and a sprained MCL already in the NFL, the franchise can't move forward with him as their surefire No. 1 back. This was the season where he could've seized the job, yet instead, indications are he'll need to be grouped together with other pieces.

Elsewhere in the backfield, Chris Thompson very well could be playing in his last three games for Washington. The 29-year-old is incredibly helpful in a lot of ways, but he, too, has difficulty staying on the field. After seven campaigns with the organization, it might be time for both sides to move on.

Then there's Bryce Love, the team's fourth-rounder who's essentially been redshirted as a rookie. The Stanford product has to show that he can recover from his own knee struggles — he had another surgery on it in late October — but he's got a lot of speed and should be more than ready to be a factor in 2020.

Oddly enough, Adrian Peterson has yet again been the steadiest running back for the Redskins. After Jay Gruden's decision to sit him for the opener, the 34-year-old has rebounded and shown he still can be a valuable asset. He's under contract and seems like a logical choice to keep in town for one more season. 

So, when added all together, the team has quite a few questions at running back. They've got to decide whom to trust out of a crop that includes someone who's super-skilled but often dinged up, a mainstay who could be on his way out, a totally unproven draft selection and an aging but still useful veteran, while also considering possibly acquiring other bodies.

Coming into 2019, RB looked like an area of strength for the Redskins. Now, nearing the end of 2019, it appears to be an area of mystery.

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