Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's media session with reporters on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, in Loudoun County, Va.
1. Making final roster decisions won't be easy.
The Redskins enter the final game with a 90-man roster with quite a bit still hinging on the performances of the fringe players against the Buffalo Bills.
After Friday night's game, Washington will have to size down the roster to 75 players by 4 p.m. on Aug. 30.
Following the conclusion of the Redskins' preseason finale with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the roster then must be trimmed to just 53 players.
That means a lot of tough decisions will be made on Barry's defensive unit.
"Well, I think, I'll answer that really two ways, it's exciting when you get to a point where if we knew exactly who our 53-man roster was going to be right now, it'd be like… I think it's good when you're like, 'Man, gosh, we've got 70 good players. We've got 80 good players,'" Barry said. "We're going to have to make some tough decisions –both sides of the ball, every position. Specifically on defense, that's exciting, because we've got a bunch of guys that have worked their butt off, that have proven they can play in this league. That is a good problem to have."
Barry said love of the game and playmaking ability will be factors in the decision making process.
"I want guys that want to go out and get coached and work and hustle and fly around – not when things are going easy but the National Football League, the season, it's a roller coaster," Barry said. "There's ups and downs. Those are all things that you try to figure out through the course of an offseason, through the course of a training camp. Then the dust settles, the chips fall and you have 53 men."
2. Barry is comfortable with where the outside linebacker corps stands at this time.
The Redskins received a late offseason blow when it was announced that Junior Galette had yet again suffered a torn Achilles, his second in as many seasons.
Washington had no choice but to move on, with Ryan Kerrigan leading the way.
Joining the 2011 first-round pick are Preston Smith – who had eight sacks as a rookie – along with Trent Murphy, Houston Bates, Willie Jefferson and Lyndon Trail among others.
Yes, it is a young group, but one that Barry is confident will be effective once the regular season rolls around.
"Those guys – Trent and Preston and Ryan – I think all three of those guys… We moved Trent back to outside linebacker, but I think those three guys had great camps, they had great offseasons, they had great camps," Barry said. "I think Ryan, compared to last year, is healthy and feeling good. We've obviously been smart with him in the games, but out here on the practice field every day, he's rolling, so that's good to see. Again, Preston, I think from Year One to Year Two, even though I think it's scary to think how good he's going to get and continue to get, but he's made huge strides from year one to year two. So I'm excited about those guys."
As for the rest of the group, the Redskins have "got a stable" of young players trying to seize the fourth outside linebacker role, one that will likely involve a heavy workload on special teams as well.
"We've got two more weeks of practice out here to evaluate out on the practice field, so a lot is going to shake out and happen in the next 12 days," Barry said.
3. If he could, Barry would list rookie Su'a Cravens as a "hybrid."
Even though Cravens is listed as a safety on the roster, the rookie out of USC has strictly played linebacker to date.
He was "all over the place" in the Redskins' preseason opener against the Falcons and continues to show progress at the inside linebacker spot.
Check out images of safety Su'a Cravens during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.
But his athletic ability coupled with the ability to create turnovers could make a quick adjustment back to safety easy.
"I think Su'a is getting more and more comfortable," Barry said. "Again, you've heard me say all the time with young players – you know, we talked about it with Prestonlast year – it's a lot when you're a young player coming into a new system. I don't care what position you play. The verbiage, the terminology, as I mentioned before with Spaight, the speed, it's completely different than anything. No matter how much football that he's played in college – and you know he was a full-time starter all three years in college – it's different."
With a lot of the signal calling and defensive adjustments down, Cravens is "getting better every single day."
"I feel very comfortable and I think he's getting more and more comfortable every single day which is good," Barry said.
4. Perhaps the most difficult part of the move from cornerback to safety for DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon has been nailing down all of the communication needed from the position.
The Redskins knew that Hall and Blackmon could make the switch to safety with ease from a technical standpoint, as both had been effective at cornerback throughout their careers.
But learning where to line up and how to relay signal calls to the cornerbacks is still a work in progress.
"The way secondary play works is that most communication is from the inside out," Barry said. "As a corner, you're usually told what to do; you're communicated to by your safeties. That was the biggest thing I know for D-Hall, especially a year ago when we moved him because he was like, 'Wow, I have got to tell everyone what to do instead of receiving information and being told what to do.' And Will echoed the same thing."
With Hall is line to start once again with Blackmon likely playing a key backup role, Barry "couldn't be happier" with where both veterans are at right now.
5. Barry was "proud" of the way Martrell Spaight responded to a late notice on start against the Jets.
Even though Will Compton looked as if he'd be the first Mike linebacker out against New York last Friday, the Nebraska product wasn't asked to play in the game.
Instead, Spaight started and appeared on 29 defensive snaps and tied the team-high in tackles with four.
"It's really amazing when you get an opportunity to be around players as rookies and then kind of see the whole growth, you know, and especially with Spaight's situation with getting hurt and missing the whole year," Barry said. "I'm proud of him with what he's… now he's still got a million miles to go, but the difference between Martrell Spaight Year One and Year Two, he's building blocks, which is good. And to be able to go start a game, run the huddle, run the defense, play the entire half, play like he did, kind of drive the bus, I was very happy."
Spaight looks like he hasn't missed a beat even though a concussion suffered last September cast a cloud over his career.
"Shoot, 10 months ago we didn't know what was going to happen with him," Barry said. "So for him to recover like he did and have an offseason like he did, have a training camp like he did, and then be able to be put in that situation and respond the way he did, that was great to see."