With more than 100 yards receiving and another touchdown catch Thursday vs. the Jaguars, Rashad Ross capped off an impressive 2015 preseason.
Around this time a year ago, wide receiver Rashad Ross was trying to determine the reasons for missing the Redskins' 53-man final roster. It was his third cut by a team in the last year. He realized he needed to change something about the way he prepared.
So Ross trained with DeSean Jackson in the offseason, working on footwork, but specifically his speed, coming off his breaks and watching Jackson to get them as "crispy" as possible.
The culmination of that effort produced his best argument to stay on a team's final roster in 2015. Ross caught 10 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown Thursday in the Redskins' 17-16 loss to the Jaguars, boosting his total preseason numbers to 25 receptions and four touchdowns in four games.
"I'm saying I'm satisfied because at the end of the day I gave it my all," Ross said. "So if I don't make the team, if I do make the team, at the end of the day, I gave it my all, so I can keep my head up high and just walk away."
Ross, who appeared comfortable the entire preseason, continued to look at ease and in harmony with quarterback Colt McCoy for the second straight week. The two grew their rapport at a time he needed the most.
Driving near the end of the first quarter, McCoy, on third-and-3, found Ross on a slant route towards the middle of the field. Catching the ball at the 10-yard line, Ross zipped through the defense and lunged into the end zone after getting pushed and tackled by Jaguars cornerback Rashaad Reynolds.
The 19-yard strike capped the 7-play, 54-yard scoring drive and put the Redskins ahead 7-0.
"Now he's got a lot more confidence as far as his mental capacity is concerned," head oach Jay Gruden said. "He's doing a great job. When he knows where he's going, he gets there in a hurry. He shows no fear."
Ross added a few punt returns to aid his last impression, which included a 19-yard scramble up field into coverage, one of several returns Ross said he was just grateful to have caught and secured.
His play should make things challenging for the coaching staff, which will have to make a decision with Ross and another strong special teams receiver in Evan Spencer, who has been held out for a concussion he suffered in Baltimore.
"We'd like to have our fifth receiver be a special team demon, like somebody who can run down kicks," Gruden said. "We already have a couple punt returns in house with [Andre] Dre' [Roberts] and Jamison [Crowder]. Ross can also do that. He can return kicks and might be our best kick returner, too. He is going to make it very interesting. We need the extra receiver, fifth or sixth guy, to be a good special team player."
After getting cut several times and realizing his position on the team, Ross knows how vital that role is for him to make the final squad.
"I'm not the star receiver, I'm not number one, number two. I'm at the bottom of the list," Ross said. "Special teams is really big for a guy in my position. So I got to work on things like that. That's something I have to do. So that's really big."
Along with McCoy, Ross also had the task of playing the entire length of the game, ample time to rack up yards but also a demanding challenge having to block without many sibstitutions.
"I was really tired," Ross said. "I mean, I haven't played a full game since college, and that was what, three years ago? So just doing something you haven't done, you know your body is going to feel different."
He'll be able to rest for a couple days, spending them with his cousins, trying to keep his mind off football. He's experienced the sour end of cut day too many times to have it take over his life. He's confident he's done enough, though, and confident his teammates believe that, too.
"Rashad has put everything on the line," McCoy said. "He's done a tremendous job since day one. He stayed healthy; he's never missed a practice. Rashad's a guy that, you know, when I didn't get any reps at practice, I would keep him afterwards and he would just continue to run routes and want to get better and whatever happens, I really appreciate the way he's handled everything and carried himself. You know, he definitely deserves a shot."
Now, it's up to the coaches.