Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
News & Notes: Donte Stallworth, Replacing Jarvis Jenkins, Kareem Moore And More
ASHBURN – Most 10-year NFL veterans, unless in the real twilight of their careers, don’t typically arrive at training camp having to fight for a spot on a roster.
Donte Stallworth isn’t like them. The 6-foot, 220-pound receiver signed a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins on July 29, at the time thinking he could take advantage of what appeared to be a lack of depth at the position.
It hasn’t been as easy as he had thought.
“I won’t say it looked like it was wide open, but there were some opportunities coming in here,” Stallworth, who turns 31 in November, said Saturday at Redskins Park. “Yeah, I wanted to jump in and try to do some things here.”
Stallworth, with Baltimore last season, said he heard from the Redskins right away and didn’t want to wait any longer after the five-month lockout ended. Thus far, he’s spent a significant portion of the preseason working as a second-team receiver.
He caught three passes for 32 yards against Pittsburgh in the opener on Aug. 12, but had just one grab for 23 yards against Indianapolis on Aug. 19. Against the Ravens on Thursday, Stallworth didn’t catch a pass and was targeted only once – an attempted 40-yard toss early in the third quarter from John Beck, who overthrew the ball and had it intercepted by Lardarius Webb.
Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney are the clear starters, but Anthony Armstrong and Terrence Austin have also played well in the preseason. With rookie Leonard Hankerson, a third-round pick, also favored to make the team, it seems as if Stallworth and five others are vying for one spot.
“I really try not to worry about that stuff. I try to just go out and play, you know?” Stallworth said. “I’m trying to practice hard every day, be on top of my assignments and go out and show the coaches I know what I’m doing and make plays.”
- Jarvis Jenkins wasn’t at practice Saturday, but he was in the hallways of the main building at Redskins Park with a giant metallic brace on his right knee. The 6-foot-4, 309-pound defensive tackle tore the ACL in the knee early in the first quarter against Baltimore and will miss the rest of the season. How the Redskins will replace Jenkins was the topic of the day in the locker room – and I’ll address that in Sunday’s Free Lance-Star – but it won’t be easy. “It’s always hard to replace those big guys, because you can’t find them on the street,” Shanahan said.Washington has three in-house candidates in Kedric Golston, Darrion Scott and Doug Worthington, but the team will likely also look to the waiver wires, especially Tuesday when teams must make their first cuts. As was the case Thursday, Scott worked in place of Jenkins during positional drills at Saturday’s practice.
- The Redskins are fortunate in one regard in that Jenkins, a second-round pick out of Clemson, hadn’t yet played in a regular-season game and wasn’t an incredibly big part of their defensive line. But he was the starter in the last two preseason games with Adam Carriker out because of blisters on his heels, and the blow is softened as Carriker returned to practice Saturday morning. He missed eight days. “It was terrible, to be honest with you,” Carriker said. “I mean, you hear the word blister, and that sounds terrible too, but they were a lot more than that. I guess it gave me a chance to rest, if there is a positive out of it, but I’m back and ready to go.”
- Also returning to practice Saturday was Ryan Torain, who broke a bone in his left hand in practice on Aug. 3. He had done some individual work beginning Aug. 17, but this was the first time since sustaining the break that Torain was full-go. Shanahan said Torain will play in Thursday’s final game of the preseason against Tampa Bay, but right now, Tim Hightower appears to be the Redskins’ top running back.“I’m not going to say he’s our starter, but if you bet in Vegas, you’d probably bet in that direction,” Shanahan said, then immediately backtracking his choice of words because of the impropriety.
Hightower and rookie Roy Helu have each been impressive in the preseason as the backs are the top two in rushing in the league through three games (Helu is the leader at 173 total yards and Hightower has 170). Torain was the Redskins’ leading rusher last season, when he picked up 742 yards and three touchdowns. The zone-blocking scheme helps, as the holes each player is running through are much wider than they were even last season. But the receivers and tight ends have to make their blocks, too, for players like Hightower to bust off 37-yard touchdown runs like he did Thursday.
“When you get a touchdown run in the National Football League, or long runs over 50 yards, your wide receivers have to be blocking,” Shanahan said. “Just like on that play – [Terrence] Austin goes down for the free safety, he takes the corner out and he’s hustling on that play, so it’s a 10- or 12-yard gain. The big plays are a combination of a lot of people working together. The back side of the formation really has to be in tune to staying with your blocks. You’re so fast in the National Football League it’s hard to get those long runs unless everyone’s playing together.”
- LaRon Landry, on the physically-unable-to-perform list first because of a left Achilles injury and now because of a right hamstring strain, is still some time away from being activated and may not play in Thursday’s final preseason game against Tampa Bay. The Redskins are hoping Landry can face the Buccaneers, as it would be his first game action since the middle of last season, but they also are trying to balance his preparedness with being fully healthy. Thus, there’s a chance he may be thrown right into the fire in the season opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 11. “You’d sure like him to be able to play in that last preseason game so that he can get some reps, especially when he missed the second half of last season,” Shanahan asid. “Does he have to? No. But it sure would help.”
- While on the topic of the PUP list, free safety Kareem Moore, who has been out of action since undergoing surgery on a torn PCL in December, may not come off the list at the start of the season and thus would be missed to six out the first six weeks per league regulations. Shanahan said if the season were to start today, that would be the case, as Moore simply isn’t ready. He couldn’t make a full evaluation Saturday, instead saying that Moore needs to be fully healthy for them to give thought to activating him.
- The crash-course of injuries: Linebacker London Fletcher (groin) and cornerback Chris Wilson (groin), each of whom returned to practice but were held out of Thursday’s loss at Baltimore for precautionary reasons, fully participated Saturday and that end their lack of availability. Rookie guard Maurice Hicks had irritation in his right knee and sat out as a precautionary measure. Linebacker Edgar Jones, the recipient of a concussion after the nasty hit against Indianapolis, should be back Sunday or Monday. Receiver Brandon Banks, who has missed time off and on this camp because of swelling in his surgically repaired left knee, will likely practice Sunday, weather permitting. And receiver Malcolm Kelly, who hasn’t done anything since his left foot flared up on Aug. 3, won’t return within the week.
- One fantastic photo worth posting from after the Baltimore game: CSN Washington’s Kelli Johnson interviewing DeAngelo Hall interviewing Oshiomogho Atogwe.
- Shanahan was in a witty, relaxed mood Saturday, likely because the number of reporters able to make the earlier start time was near 10, as opposed to more than 20, as is usual. He joked about the timing of the practice, poked John Keim of the Washington Examiner for referring to Maurice Hurt as Mo (“I didn’t know you guys were that tight,” he said) and beat the reporters to the punch on bringing up the proposed bubble housing an indoor field by saying they had to deflate it because of the winds. “There’s no sense in having that thing take off on us,” he said with a smile.
- An interesting sight: in a precautionary measure with the hurricane rolling in, the Redskins prepared by taking down the goalposts on five of the eight goal posts on its practice fields, leaving the crossbars up. The uprights on the field the team practiced on were left standing, as was the upright on an adjacent field for the kickers, though they presumably came down as well after the practice ended. (At UConn, the uprights on the outdoor practice fields were normal, but the ones inside the indoor facility hung from the roof. I was always fascinated by the ones at the stadium, though, which were hinged midway up the support pole and could come down and lie flat with the pull of a pin.) Practice was moved from a scheduled 2 p.m. start to an 11 a.m. start, and it ended just as the rain started to fall. Plans for Sunday are uncertain.
- Thursday’s game between Washington and Baltimore was the highest-rated preseason contest in Redskins history, earning a 18.7 preliminary combined overnight household rating in the Washington market. It topped the 16.3 rating for the Pittsburgh game on Aug. 12. Through three games, the Redskins are averaging a 16.1 rating, the highest preseason average in team history.