TAMPA, Fla. — On one run, Silas Redd turned a corner, tried to leap a defender and was speared out of bounds by another. Two plays later, he was hit so hard his helmet popped off, yet he still finished the run with a three-yard gain.
Thursday marked the Redskins' final preseason game, leaving roughly two dozen players with one final shot to state their case for making the team to the coaching staff. In less than 48 hours, a large majority of them will be receiving a phone call, asking them to report to Redskins Park with their playbooks and leaving them with handshakes, lessons and memories.
Redd, an undrafted running back out of Southern California, was well aware the deadline was looming. On each of his carries in Washington's 24-10 victory over Tampa Bay, Redd kept one thought fresh in his mind: No negative plays.
"I mean, you've just got to play, but you've got to have those things in your mind," Redd said. "You know, third-and-2, you've got to get that first down and don't lose yards on a second-and-5. You've got to keep those scenarios in your head."
Of all position battles, the Redskins' running back competition has been the most difficult to discern. Behind Alfred Morris and Roy Helu, four players – Evan Royster, Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk and Redd – have all tried to use the four preseason games to stake their claim on a roster spot.
Redd rushed 14 times for 79 yards on Thursday, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and finished the preseason as the team's leading rusher with 157 yards on 34 carries.
With the Redskins, who have a proven veteran in Royster and a pair of undersized speedsters in Thompson and Seastrunk, there's only so much he can control. Ultimately, the decision will be made not solely on production or talent, but on fit.
"It's been like that the whole training camp," said coach Jay Gruden. "Each running back, when they get their number called, they produce pretty well. We're just going to have to evaluate the whole process, you know, from training camp to OTAs and all the games they played. Go back and look at all their pass protection pickups in practice and their routes in practice, and their runs, and evaluate them and make a sound decision – the best one we can make."
Seastrunk, the Redskins' other rookie, had the highlight-reel play of the evening with an 80-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Facing second-and-10 from his own 20, quarterback Colt McCoy faced pressure inside and checked down to Seastrunk, who released to the right, turned the corner, broke two tackles and raced by a third defender before hitting open field.
It was the first reception of the preseason for Seastrunk – and his first touch since the Redskins' preseason game against Cleveland on Aug. 18.
"I just was playing ball," said Seastrunk, who had an 8-yard catch later in the game and ran six times for 23 yards. "You're gonna get big plays, you're not gonna get big plays. It's just how the game is. I was just fortunate that it was my play."
Royster, the first running back to get an opportunity on Thursday, had just four carries and lost a yard in the first quarter. Last week, he spoke about needing to make an impact on special teams to claim a spot on the initial roster – and against the Buccaneers, he lined up both on both kickoff units.
Even the oft-injured Thompson, making his return after missing two preseason games with a sprained ankle, got a chance on special teams. Though all three kickoffs he faced went for a touchback, he finished with 18 yards on eight carries and caught four passes for an additional 41 yards, even standing in at times as a third-down back just so he could be evaluated on his pass protection.
Gruden said additional plays were called for Thompson in an attempt to see how he could handle and respond to the workload.
"I'm thankful for the opportunities – the running, the catching, putting me in all the third-down situations pretty much throughout the whole first half," Thompson said.
Though Thompson joked that he wished the coaching staff could keep all six players, the team can make that a possibility. As rookies, the possibility exists that Redd and Seastrunk could be cut, pass through waivers and end up rejoining the team as part of its 10-man practice squad on Monday.
With sweat beading on his forehead after the game, Redd was thrown a white towel to help him cool off. If the pressure hadn't gotten to him on the field, the reality of the situation had then.
"I have confidence in my ability running the ball, and hopefully, [the coaches] do, too," Redd said. "I tried to put that on tape tonight."
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