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Redskins Are Piecing Together Their Final 53

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Preseason is officially in the books and players hoping to see their name on the final 53-man roster can only watch and wait.

Nerve-wracking? You bet.

The Redskins will have to cut their roster from 80 players down to the league-mandated 53 by 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The lockout-shortened offseason meant fewer organized practices and fewer opportunities for players to show coaches what can do on the football field.

Head coach Mike Shanahan said that cutting players this year is going to be different than previous years.

"It's always tough on some of these young players because they haven't had the opportunity to show us everything that they could do," Shanahan said. "Missing the OTA days is tougher on this year's class than most, even though we had 90 players, because when you have 17 OTA days, you're talking about a lot of reps to evaluate some guys."

Thursday night's preseason finale -- a 29-24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedExField, was the last opportunity for many of the rookies and roster hopefuls to showcase their talents.

Wide receiver Niles Paul, running back Evan Royster, nose tackle Chris Neild, linebacker Markus White, and cornerback DeJon Gomes all were in the starting lineup.

How do coaches evaluate these players and determine if they should be on the 53-man roster?

"It's constant," Shanahan said. "We're evaluating after every practice, every game. Every few days, we'll sit down and talk about each guy and each position. They do change according to games and practices."

Those young players who don't make the final 53 can be signed to the practice squad on Sunday.

Some players like seventh-round draft pick Markus White understand that the practice squad may be a necessary step in their development process.

"I don't want to settle for [practice squad]," he said. "If it's what I need to improve, if it's going to get me better -- mentally and physically -- then that's what I'll do," White said.

The risk in the practice squad is that players can be signed to the rosters of other NFL teams at any time during the regular season.

The possibility that a promising young player like Paul or White could be signed elsewhere helps their chances of earning a roster spot.

"Everyone evaluates different teams and if you feel like that player can help your football team, then you've got to claim him," Shanahan said. "You know your players better than anybody, but sometimes people do their homework and take a chance on a player, just like we might."

Shanahan said he was happy with the way the team worked through training camp and presesaon.

"We try and get better every day," he said. "I think we were able to do that throughout the preseason. I've been pleased with the effort, pleased with the attitude."

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