Rick Snider: First-year players hit Redskins minicamp in search of a place to catch on in the NFL

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There wasn't a marquee first-rounder to watch, nor a quarterback likely to throw a ball this fall. Mostly, the Washington Redskins were looking for some reserves and surprises.

A fistful of draft picks were the only sure things among 72 players at rookie camp Sunday expecting to return in July. Many will head to other NFL camps next week, hoping someone sees something that maybe leads to a practice squad or special teams job.

It is the cattle call of undrafted and first-year players looking for a chance. And certainly coach Mike Shanahan gave it to them over three days. He told them to stay in shape, wait for a call to replace someone. That many of them should be in an NFL training camp somewhere.

It's just getting harder to make the Redskins roster in Shanahan's fourth season. Some present reserves would have started during some past poor seasons. Undrafted players rarely make NFL teams and it's not easy nowadays in Washington.

"The good thing is it's hard to make our 90-man roster," Shanahan said. "We've got more depth right now than we've had, so it's not easy to make our football team."

Naturally, everyone was eyeing the top pick, second-round cornerback David Amerson, but there's not much to see in rookie camps. No pads or hitting, no special teams work, little chance to stand out. But Amerson showed some smarts on the field.

Third-round tight end Jordan Reed was sidelined with a minor injury, but he just exuded athleticism even throwing the ball around in warmups. He struck me much like Fred Davis did in his 2008 rookie camp in terms of size, though they're different players.

One to watch may be Texas Christian receiver Skye Dawson, whose 4.39 speed was complemented by good hands on a pair of standout receptions. Those are the kind of plays that lead to a job come fall.

The oddest resume was Western Illinois guard Andrew Robiskie, son of former Redskins coach Terry Robiskie. It doesn't seem so long ago that the young Robiskie and a handful of sons of players and coaches were taped to benches during training camp by Big Daddy Wilkinson and fellow defensive linemen.

Robiskie chose the Redskins over several others wanting the undrafted free agent after his father said the offense would be a good fit for the center/guard. Indeed, Terry Robiskie told Andrew that Washington was his best chance. Coming to Atlanta, where the elder is now coaching, would be too complicated anyway.

"I used to sled down that hill over there," said Robiskie of returning to Redskins Park after 13 years. "I used to run around the hallways screaming like a kid."

Rookie camp is a time of dreams that hopefully become memorable.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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