Halfway through the preseason, the competition for the Washington Redskins' No. 2 receiver spot remains unsettled.
"I wouldn't say it's clouded, but it's very competitive," coach Jim Zorn said after practice Monday at Redskin Park.
The No. 5 spot, however, appears to be sunny thanks to the emergence of seventh-round pick Marko Mitchell.
Mitchell has three catches for 21 yards in two games, including a 3-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh. Combine that with strong practices and an appearance on the first-team kickoff coverage unit and he has worked his way into contention for a roster spot.
Marques Hagans entered camp as the favorite for the fifth spot vacated by James Thrash's release but hasn't distinguished himself as a return man, opening the door for Mitchell.
The Redskins generally keep five receivers on the 53-man roster and usually activate four on Sundays.
Before his third-quarter touchdown, Mitchell played the second series with the first-team offense.
"To me, it was basically a good feeling because it showed me that the coaches think I can play against the other team's 1s and 2s and if I got the opportunity during the season, I can be put out there and can be trusted," Mitchell said.
In two years at Nevada, Mitchell caught 153 passes for 2,763 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he didn't play special teams. Realizing that's his only shot to make the Redskins' final cut, he has dived in head-first trying to learn how to cover kicks and block on returns.
"The first game, I didn't get to play that much on offense, but I got a lot of special teams reps," Mitchell said. "I saw what I did wrong on film, the coaches corrected me and I went into the last game trying not to make the same mistakes."
If Mitchell has a big finale at Jacksonville, the Redskins will have a tough decision: put him on the roster or risk losing him on waivers, which he would have to clear before going to the practice squad.
Rogers tweaks calf
Cornerback Carlos Rogers (left calf), fullback Mike Sellers (right knee) and right tackle Mike Williams (left ankle) sat out practice. Offensive lineman Devin Clark and running back Anthony Alridge returned after missing the Pittsburgh game.
After the game Rogers experienced swelling in the calf, which kept him out the first week of August, but he expects to play Friday against New England.
The clock may be ticking on Williams, who has been out a week and needs to show he can be serviceable following a three-year layoff.
"I wanted a little black and gold [Steelers], but we also have to be smart," he said. "I didn't want to go out there and then be out five weeks. Hopefully by Friday, you'll see big number 71 out there. I can't change what's happened. I know what they want to see, and I know what I want to prove."
Despite a 10.1 passer rating in the first two games and the emergence of rookie Chase Daniel, quarterback Colt Brennan remains upbeat about making the team. Brennan was Mr. August last year but is only 4-for-12 for 43 yards and one interception this month.
"I'm not going to let that deter or discourage me at all," he said. "I have an opportunity the next two weeks to go out and do some good things. I'm excited to make something happen."
Zorn said Todd Collins has a firm grip on the No. 2 job, leaving Brennan and Daniel to play the final preseason game Sept. 3 at Jacksonville for the final roster spot.
"I've always said Colt's trying to battle for the No. 2 spot with Todd, but I think we saw that Todd was not willing to bow down and give that up, so the competition is for the No. 3 spot," Zorn said. "Chase is making a statement about that."
Playing through pain
Left tackle Chris Samuels confirmed he was almost a late scratch Saturday because of a left knee injury, but he played two series and practiced Monday.
"It was aching a little bit, but even though the games don't count, I wanted to definitely perform well if I was in there," he said. "My teammates needed me and the coaches asked me to go out, suck it up and play. We did a pretty decent job."
Zorn said Samuels will experience less wear and tear now that two-a-days are complete.