In mid-August, it appeared the chances of both Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston making the Redskins' 53-man roster were a long shot.
Smart money said that there would only be one opening on the roster at defensive tackle, since the Redskins had veterans returning at the position with NFL playoff experience. Montgomery and Golston were rookies still adjusting to the NFL.
"We didn't worry about that," Golston said recently. "Our main focus was just to learn about the NFL game and this defense, and play solid football."
Indeed, Montgomery and Golston not only earned roster spots coming out of preseason, they have had substantial playing time through the first five weeks of the NFL season. Montgomery has five tackles while Golston has 11 tackles, one fumble recovery and three quarterback pressures.
With veteran starter Joe Salave'a struggling through calf injuries this season, fifth-round draft pick Montgomery and sixth-round draft pick Golston could continue to see more playing time.
Salave'a has sat out practice this week to rest his right calf. He is listed as questionable heading into Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans.
Salave'a missed two games earlier this season due to a left calf injury. That opened up playing time for Golston, who drew the starting assignment, and Montgomery.
"They have played well and they have played physical," Salave'a said of the rookie duo. "It's something they can be proud of. They established themselves early on. Normally, as a vet, you don't want to put them in that type of predicament. But that's why we drafted them and that's why they're here. Let's see if they can build on it."
Golston has played in all five games this season and was making an impact as early as the season opener against Minnesota. He was credited with three tackles, including throwing running back Mewelde Moore for a key three-yard loss that helped stall a Vikings drive.
"For his first game, on a big Monday Night stage, Kedric played pretty well," defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Greg Blache said. "He went out there and help up his end of the bargain. Now the question becomes: Can he continue to progress? We had some apprehensions about putting him out there in such a big game, but Kedric put those fears to rest."
Said Golston: "Playing in that Monday Night game gave me a lot of confidence. It was Monday Night Football, a lot of energy, and my family was at the game. What more could you ask?"
Meantime, Montgomery has watched Golston and learned from his playing time. When Montgomery was active for the first time in Week 3 and worked with Golston through the course of the game.
"Kedric started the game and he was on the sidelines telling me how to approach the players and giving me game adjustments," Montgomery said.
For coaches, Montgomery's development has been more of a work in progress.
During games, Montgomery said he has to constantly remind himself to stay within technique.
"I'm focused on staying low to the ground and getting leverage on [offensive] linemen," Montgomery said. "In the Texans game, my second play was a tackle, but it got called back because of a penalty. I got the tackle, but I was still kind of high on that. So I still have a long way to go with my technique, but I can feel myself getting better."
Whether Salave'a plays or not on Sunday, he will be watching the two rookies carefully.
"No matter what the coaches say, no matter what their peers say, they're going to have to go out and produce," Salave'a said. "There's nobody out there holding their hands except themselves. They do a pretty good job and we're looking for more from them."
-- INJURY UPDATE
#### -- NO COSTUME FOR PORTIS
Perhaps Dolemite Jenkins got lost searching for Southeast Jerome? In any event, Clinton Portis did not dress up in a costume for Thursday's media session.
"Last week, I was just in the mood to do that," he said. "I thought everyone would be thrown off by it. A win is going to get things back on track around here."
Portis did catch some media by surprise when he called 0-5 Tennessee "one of the most dangerous teams in the league."
Explained Portis: "They're dangerous for the simple fact that they go for it on fourth down, try on-sides kick, and do anything else. When you are preparing for a team like that, how do you prepare? They can have trick plays or blitz you all game.
"What do they have to lose? So you have to be careful. You can't overlook this team. It's full of talent, it's just young talent. They have a lot of playmakers and we have to be prepared."