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When it comes to making the Redskins’ 53, the games matter more than practice

When it comes to making the Redskins’ 53, the games matter more than practice

RICHMOND—In practice on Saturday, rookie wide receiver Kendall Thompson went deep. The pass was slightly overthrown but Thompson lunged at just the right moment and made the grab. It was the best individual offensive play of the day.

But it may not have helped Thompson much in his quest to make the team, or even the practice squad. He played only five snaps against the Falcons on Thursday and he didn’t have a pass thrown his way. Five snaps and zero targets doesn’t give a player much of a chance to make an impression against players wearing different helmets. And while Jay Gruden doesn't dismiss the importance of practice, he clearly believes that what happens in preseason games counts more.

The cut to 53 is due on September 3, just shy of three weeks from today. Gruden was asked if any separation had started to develop on the roster after two weeks of camp and a preseason game.

“I think you’re starting to see a little bit, but there is still a lot of ball left to be played,” said Gruden. “We still have some good practice work to do and then obviously the two games that are going to be very important for a lot of these guys. There are some tight battles, but we got to see a lot of them in the game against Atlanta and then we’ll see some more in the next two games against Buffalo and the Jets and I’ll make our determination.”

Maybe I’m reading this wrong but it sure sounds to me like what happens in the games will matter a whole lot more than what happens in those half dozen or so “good practices” that will take place between now and September 3.

There is no doubt that practice is important. But practicing well is a given. Players make plays like Kendall Thompson as sort of a minimum level of competence that qualify a player to get some snaps in a game.

So does this mean that Robert Kelley has the edge over Keith Marshall for a roster spot at running back? Kelley ran for 40 yards on seven carries against the Falcons while Marshall posted minus-one yard on five attempts. Maybe, but not necessarily. It’s possible that Marshall had nowhere to run while Kelley got better blocking. Maybe Kelley didn’t go where he was supposed to go on some plays but got a good result out of it anyway. The evaluation goes well beyond just numbers.

But if we are to believe what Gruden said, should the next three preseason games go by and Kelley and Marshall have roughly the same number of carries and one has 40 more yards per game than the other, the player with more yards is a pretty good bet to make the team.

Again, practice is important for young players like Marshall, Kelley, and Thompson. But they had better follow up solid weeks of practices with coming up big in the preseason games if they want to be on that list of 53 players in a few weeks.

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Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins coaches appreciate Niles Paul. Not just for the immense physical skills, a 6-foot-1, 225 lb. college receiver turned NFL tight end and fullback. He works hard every day at practice, and demands the same from his teammates. 

Last season, Paul landed on the injured reserve after an injury in London during a Week 8 tie against the Bengals. Because of that, some speculation emerged that Paul could be the odd man out in the Redskins tight end group, behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis and fighting with 2017 draft pick Jeremy Sprinkle, not to mention veteran Derek Carrier. 

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS MAKE RUN AT NICK MANGOLD?

After two preseason games, it's clear Paul is ready to fight for that spot. Against Green Bay on Saturday night, Paul logged a touchdown catch and a fumble recovery on special teams, showing the versatility that makes him so valuable to Washington. 

For Paul, he's just happy to be back on the field. 

"I got my season cut in half last year. I just want to be back on the field by any means necessary. I've just been missing it. I've been missing football in my life," Paul said after the game (full video above).

Paul's acrobatic TD grab showed that he still has the explosiveness to help the offense, but his special teams play is what will keep him on the roster. It also helps that head coach Jay Gruden complimented Paul for an outstanding camp and work ethic. 

"His speed looks where it was before the injuries. I mean, I think he's had an outstanding training camp so far. He's done so many different things. And that's one of the toughest positions," Gruden said of Paul. 

The Redskins offense hasn't hit full cylinder yet, but Paul thinks the return of Jordan Reed will help. 

"We're missing a major piece and that's Jordan Reed," he said. "We got some fine tuning to do."

Considering Reed's injury history, and backup tight end Vernon Davis starting the season at 33, a healthy Paul is a luxury for the Redskins. He stands to make nearly $2.5 million this season, but he also brings versatility. Paul is happy to play fullback, a role that seems to be growing, as well as all over the field on special teams. 

Washington will absolutely keep Reed and Davis. With his play this preseason, Paul seems a sure thing too. And if the squad wants to keep their draft pick in Sprinkle, who has tremendous size and has shown promise, four tight ends on the 53-man roster looks like the future. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

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USA Today Sports

With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

News broke late Monday night that Redskins' center Spencer Long underwent a minor knee scope and is expected to miss two weeks. That timetable spells good news for Washington, as that would bring Long back to the team before the first regular season game against the Eagles on September 10th. 

In the meantime, expect rookie Chase Roullier to take over at center for the Redskins. A 6th round draft pick, Bruce Allen and the Washington brass moved up to select Roullier, and the young player out of Wyoming had a strong training camp. 

RELATED: NILES PAUL FORCING HIS WAY TO A ROSTER SPOT?

"He’s done a great job, he really has. For a rookie to come in here and handle all the things he has to handle, it’s been very impressive," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Roullier in early August. 

Still, Jay Gruden has been very clear about the need for a backup center on the roster. Last season the team brought in veteran John Sullivan during the year to provide depth at the position after Kory Lichtensteiger went down with injury.  Sullivan ended up starting one game for Washington, and is now playing with the Rams. 

With Long on the mend, the only other center on the Redskins roster is Roullier. Ronald Patrick is listed with the more generic OL designation though he has played center too.

It seems likely the team will move quickly to add another center, and one name that will get suggested is Nick Mangold. An 11-year veteran that played his entire career with the Jets, Mangold has more experience than Long, Roullier and Patrick combined.

He's also played the position at a very high level. Twice named to the NFL's All Pro team, Mangold has made seven Pro Bowls, most recently in 2015.

It's not entirely clear why Mangold isn't on an NFL roster already. He worked out for the Ravens this offseason, though some reports suggested Mangold wanted more guaranteed money than was discussed. 

A quick look at his Twitter feed does not suggest a guy missing the NFL life. A big soccer fan, Mangold seems very dialed in to London's Tottenham Hotspur and the New York City Football Club. (Check his Twitter out here)

If the team truly believes Long should not miss any regular season action, Mangold is probably not a fit. At 33-years-old with an impressive resume, Mangold likely doesn't want to come back just to be a backup, and Gruden has repeatedly talked about Long's ability and potential in the middle of the line. Should Long suffer a setback, the equation could change. 

Other names are likely to pop up for tryouts, as the 'Skins must consider more interior line depth. Making a run at Mangold might be something fans want to do, though it might not make sense at this point.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!