1. LB Ryan Kerrigan. Loved the play he made on third and one vs. Pittsburgh, when he relied on smarts and instincts. That’s the sort of play he made at Purdue. But the rest of the night was not so great, between his angles to the ball and playing way too far inside. However, Kerrigan, by all accounts, is a smart player. He’s received extra tutoring from coach Lou Spanos again this week. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of progress he makes. Pay attention to the angles he takes to the quarterback. It’ll be telling – does he round off his path or take a straight line? Last week it was a rounded path.
On pace for: Starting job, though I’m not convinced that he will open the season as the No. 1 outside linebacker, not based off his opening performance. Let’s see how he progresses over the next three weeks, but right now he’s an area to exploit.
2. DE Jarvis Jenkins. The defensive end played too upright against the run, allowing himself to be controlled by veteran linemen. See if he plays with more knee bend this week. And you’ll get a good comparison if you watch him do it next to Barry Cofield, who does play with good knee bend. When Jenkins only needed to penetrate, Jenkins was excellent. He had a relatively quiet week of practice.
On pace for: Nothing changed after last week; still on target to be the third end. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the biggest rookie contributor from this class.
3. WR Leonard Hankerson. Yeah, he dropped a pass leading to a lot of Twitter angst from Redskins fans. Hankerson definitely has concentration issues; his head turned upfield before he had secured the ball vs. Pittsburgh. But Hankerson had, by far, his best week of camp catching the ball. Did see him bobble one ball, but still hung on. It had nothing to do with gloves; it was all about looking it in and catching it smoother.
On pace for: Once more, nothing has changed. He’s a No. 4 receiver. He gives the Redskins something they don’t have: a big target.
4. RB Roy Helu. Fans got to see the footwork that makes him dangerous. Though he came in after Evan Royster, Helu still showed that he offers something no other Redskins back has: explosiveness. But, yes, picking up the blitz remains a problem. It was last week; it was again this week. Part of it is needing to keep his head up; the other part is that even when he does he’s been run through.
On pace for: Roster spot. He gives the Redskins something they don’t have: a back with home run potential. He made defenders miss vs. Pittsburgh.
5. S DeJon Gomes. He made plays in the backfield vs. the Steelers and looked good near the line of scrimmage early in practice this week. Took on Mike Sellers and shed him to make a block on one play. He’s comfortable up here. But in coverage? Sounds as if he has a ways to go.
On pace for: Practice squad/fifth safety. I think we’ll know a little more after Friday night. But he has shown he can make plays –going forward at least -- and that’s a good start. Also, it helps that Chris Horton is not having a great camp. And if Kareem Moore somehow starts the season on the PUP list, then Gomes’ chances shoot up.
6. WR Niles Paul. He continues to show good hands, something he did not always do in college. But he’s not a smooth route runner and it shows. One executive – who likes him by the way -- said he runs routes like he’s a running back. I’d like to see more chances for him to see what he can do after the catch. But mostly I want to see him on special teams. That’s where he must make his mark.
On pace for: Practice squad. He really has to have strong games on special teams to have a chance. It’s hard to imagine him getting a real shot to contribute at receiver this season. But I love his approach and his toughness.
7. RB Evan Royster. Had a pretty good preseason debut vs. Pittsburgh. He was OK picking up blitzes, which, for a first time, isn’t bad. He can improve in this area and I think he will because he’s very willing and his mistakes are correctable (more technique than anything). I wonder if he can make defenders miss; he didn’t do so vs. the Steelers and that’s why Helu must rate higher. Royster stutter stepped a lot on his early cuts, then improved later with stronger one-plant cuts. That’s when he had his best runs and got the yards that were available.
On pace for: Practice squad/fourth running back. Would the Redskins keep four running backs and a fullback? Maybe they’ll keep three RBs, a FB and four TEs (Mike Sellers’ spot). What if they want to keep Keiland Williams, too, because he can play two spots. But, for now, Royster should be behind Helu if only because the latter gives you something you don’t have. But Royster could be more valuable if something happened to Ryan Torain -- and what are the odds of that? Royster definitely has skills that can help; he's not a remarkable player but he'll get the yards that are available, catch the ball and do a decent job on blitzes. I'm anxious to see him Friday, to see if he starts to make defenders miss.
8. WR Aldrick Robinson. Boy did he botch a couple punt returns vs. the Steelers. He compounded one mistake (trying to field the ball around the 5-yard line) with another (mishandling the ball). He was said to have “rare speed” coming out of college. Not sure that’s been evident yet. He seems fast, but not sure we’ve seen rare to this point. That could be a case of a guy still, understandably, having to think a lot.
On pace for: Practice squad. But here’s the thing. If the Redskins keep six receivers on the roster, as everyone expects, then it would be hard to keep two receivers on the practice squad.
9. CB Brandyn Thompson. Haven’t seen a whole lot from him and he played sparingly vs. Pittsburgh. In practice, he’s been OK vs. lesser receivers.
On pace for: Practice squad. Much better options ahead of him.
10. G/T Maurice Hurt. Very up and down, as he should be. Thought he was fine for his first outing, though the best player he faced, Cameron Heyward, was too quick for him. Hurt is still working at both guard and tackle. Did not have his best week in practice, at least when I focused on him.
On pace for: Still think they don’t have many alternatives for this spot. If they keep nine offensive linemen, as you’d expect, then he could be No. 9. Their depth isn’t that strong along the line. Selvish Capers’ lack of development helps Hurt, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they ultimately picked up another player off waivers later this month.
11. LB Markus White. He’s a strong player as he showed vs. the Steeler linemen a couple times last week. He was able to use his hands to defeat blockers. But he also wastes a lot of movement with his rushes as he’s still adapting to linebacker. Can’t blame him.
On pace for: Practice squad. Worth developing. Think I said the same thing last week.
12. NT Chris Neild. Just haven’t seen a whole lot from him, but I also know he’s not a flashy player. Not his style. But I haven’t seen him clog the middle enough either.
On pace for: Practice squad. Good player to have around; will work hard and perhaps can develop. He’ll never be much of a rusher, but he needs to learn how to take up space and not get moved out. Takes time.