- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2018

The thing about this time of year is that anyone can accurately predict about 40 players who will make any NFL team’s 53-man roster, perhaps even more. Barring injuries, many guys are simply locks.

Other players realistically have no shot of making the final cut. They’re chasing a dream, or their camps and their preseason tape serve as auditions for other clubs.

But on the Washington Redskins or any other team, a certain subset of players are on the cusp of making the 53-man roster and need to shine at training camp to get there. Some on this list are more likely to make the cut than others, but here are five Redskins who would especially benefit from having a standout camp.

1. Byron Marshall, running back

Drafting Derrius Guice didn’t immediately resolve Washington’s backfield situation. Chris Thompson is a lock to make the team as well, but just how many running backs will the Redskins keep? They seem high on Marshall, who’s in the mix with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine to make what might be a four-man stable of backs.

Marshall got into four games for the Redskins last season. He showed potential as a receiving option, catching five of six targets in one game against Dallas. He has recovered enough from a hamstring injury to take part in offseason workouts, so he is likely healthier than Thompson, the dual-threat teammate he most closely resembles.

2. Maurice Harris, wide receiver

Everyone remembers his almost- impossibly acrobatic catch against the Vikings last season, but one touchdown doesn’t guarantee a roster spot the next season. There’s an opportunity for the 25-year-old with 12 career catches to return to the Redskins if he performs consistently in August.

Behind the presumed starting trio of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson, Harris will have competition from Robert Davis and the 2018 draft’s Mr. Irrelevant, Trey Quinn. Quinn doubles as a candidate for kick returner, a role Harris stepped into six times the last two years.

3. Cam Sims, wide receiver

The Redskins love to pick up players from Alabama, but they’re defensive players most of the time. This Crimson Tide receiver is the most intriguing undrafted free agent they signed this spring. Sims made some nice plays during rookie minicamp and OTAs, and why wouldn’t the Redskins want a 6-foot-5 receiver on their depth chart? His Alabama career was unimpressive and he isn’t relatively fast.

Unlike Harris and Quinn, he won’t set himself apart as a returner. But he has a penchant for blocking, both on offense and in kick coverage. Combined with his size, that grittiness could be his ticket into the NFL.

4. Ziggy Hood, defensive lineman

Once a Pittsburgh Steelers starter, Hood’s career found a second wind in Washington, but will it be too little, too late? Pro Football Focus graded Hood dead last against the run out of 130 qualifying interior defensive linemen last year. He only added half a sack in the pass rush, to boot. And he is already 31.

The Redskins drafted Daron Payne and Tim Settle to bolster the interior of their front seven and their 32nd-ranked run defense. If the Redskins opt to start the year with six defensive linemen, as they did coming out of camp last year, cutting Hood would save the team $1.6 million in cap against just $150,000 in dead money. That makes him a more likely target for cuts than teammate Stacy McGee. All that means is that Hood better ball out in Richmond.

5. Fish Smithson, safety

When Smithson and a few other second-year players attended rookie minicamp in May, coach Jay Gruden said it was not a punishment, but “an opportunity for them to get on the field, listen to the coverages again and go through it and perform and separate themselves from the rest of the guys.”

Maybe that investment of time will pay off for Smithson, who rarely saw the field last year as an undrafted rookie out of Kansas. The starting safeties are likely set, but Smithson will compete with fourth-round pick Troy Apke and undrafted Virginia signee Quin Blanding for a limited number of roster spots.

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