It’s not likely we’ll be seeing many replays of the Redskins preseason win over the Buccaneers in the coming years, but Thursday’s late-game theatrics worked wonders for a pair of offensive players on the roster bubble.
Trailing 24-23 in the fourth quarter, quarterback Kellen Clemens led the Redskins on a five-play, one-minute drive capped by a 41-yard touchdown pass to veteran receiver Donte Stallworth, giving Washington the 29-24 win.
“He’s a fantastic receiver with great speed,” Clemens said following the game. “He made a great catch. With him it’s easy. You just throw it high and far and he’ll go get it.”
Late in the final preseason game of the year, the play was as about as insignificant as a game-winning pass can possibly be, but for Clemens and Stallworth, it’s potentially the difference between a spot on the final roster and unemployment.
The Redskins have a bevy of receivers vying for either six or seven roster spots. Terrence Austin and Brandon Banks appear to have played their way onto the team, and Washington probably won’t risk putting talented rookies Leonard Hankerson and Niles Paul on the practice squad. So unless Mike Shanahan decides otherwise, Stallworth is on the outside looking in.
However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hope to be here in a week with a team he’s convinced will shock the football world.
“Oh of course yeah [I want to be here],” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I’ve been in this game a long time so I understand the business side of it. Regardless of what happens, this team will be surprising a lot of people this year. I hope to be a part of it but if I’m not, I hope to be somewhere else making plays as well.”
Clemens admitted he didn’t even know when the deadline for trimming down the roster was and as long as the Redskins decide to keep three quarterbacks, he’s safe. Yet the new rules allow the Redskins to keep an extra player on the active gameday roster other than a third quarterback so Shanahan might decide to keep a player at another position.
That player could be Stallworth, whose heady play and special teams ability make him a logical choice to make the roster. The only thing working against the 30-yeard-old is the youth movement the franchise has recently begun to embrace.
“I don’t want to say [I’ve done enough],” he said. “We have a lot of depth in the room and a lot of the young guys have really shown up this year and have done really well [and] they’ve made their case. The coaches will make the decision on who the best 53 are and we’ll move on from there.”
Clemens couldn’t say enough about Stallworth after the game, complimenting the receiver’s efforts to help both of them make their case.
“The thing about Donte that you like is his work ethic,” he said. “He’s one of the last guys to leave and he also has what quarterbacks like to call football intelligence.
“It’s like you being able to look across the room at your boyfriend or girlfriend or whoever and you just kind of know what each other is thinking,” Clemens continued. “It’s easier to make in-game transitions [with him]. That last play wasn’t a play that we have [in the playbook]. It wasn’t something we drew up in the dirt, but it’s somewhere in between.”
Set play or no, it was enough to get a win however meaningless. It could also be enough to earn two veterans a shot to play with an up-and-coming team led by a Super Bowl winning head coach.
“I know one thing -- that the Redskins have something special here,” Stallworth said. “I’ve been on some really good teams, Super Bowl teams, and the Redskins, they’ll definitely be surprising people this year.”