Every year there's an undrafted rookie or first-year player who surprises in the preseason and makes the Redskins roster.
Back in 2001, the Redskins uncovered four solid NFL players in Ifeanyi Ohalete, Bryan Johnson, Antonio Pierce and Kenny Watson. A year later, Justin Skaggs, Lemar Marshall and Ladairis Jackson were among the young players who stuck around. Last year, Clifton Smith, Sultan McCullough and Ade Jimoh were among the undrafted rookies who earned spots on the Redskins roster.
With the number of slots on the practice squad jumping from five to eight in 2004, quite a few of the Redskins' undrafted free agents and first-year players could stick around past cut-down day--particularly if they excel on special teams.
So who will be the pleasant surprises of 2004? They're all long-shots to make the roster, of course, but it's up to them to make the best of their opportunity. Among the young players hoping to make an impression at training camp include:
Ryan Boschetti, DT
At 6-4 and 300-pounds, Boschetti has good size. He could provide depth at a position that has some degree of uncertainty as the team waits to see how Brandon Noble's surgically repaired knee responds during training camp. Boschetti played in all 13 games for UCLA last year and logged 43 tackles, 2.5 sacks and eight tackles for a loss. He also was solid on special teams, recording a blocked kick.
John Standeford, WR
The Redskins have plenty of wide receivers on the roster, but Standeford's statistics at Purdue warrant a closer look. The 6-4, 206-pounder finished his collegiate career as the Big Ten's most productive wide receiver in history with 266 receptions, 3,788 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns in four seasons. He holds the Purdue record with 14 100-yard receiving games. Standeford also fits the bill when it comes to intelligence, having won the 2004 Woody Hayes National Scholar Athlete Award for excellence in academics, athletics and community service.
Billy Strother, LB
Strother is a 6-0, 230-pound linebacker who started 13 games for New Mexico last season. He tied for the team lead in tackles with 100 (50 solo) while registering six pass breakups, four QB hurries and two fumble recoveries. Strother also made a solid contribution on special teams, returning a pair of blocked punts for touchdowns. As a junior in 2002, his teammates named his Defensive MVP after he recorded 89 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and a blocked punt.
Jonathan Brewer, WR
Another wide receiver, Brewer played his collegiate ball at Howard and impressed the Redskins coaching staff with his route-running ability during a pre-draft workout in early April. He's slender at 6-0 and 175 pounds, but that didn't hinder his productivity. In his senior year, he caught 38 passes for 469 yards and three TD. He was also feared as a kickoff return specialist, recording a 23-yard average on 17 returns.
Garnell Wilds, CB
At Virginia Tech last season, Wilds backed up eventual first-round draft pick DeAngelo Hall (Atlanta Falcons) but managed to get plenty of playing time in his four-year Hokies career. The 5-11, 196-pounder started 10 games in his junior and senior seasons and led the Big East in 2002 with five interceptions. He also served on special teams and once caught a 33-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt.
Norman Heuer, DT
Heuer started 13 games for Michigan last year and recorded 16 tackles, three tackles for a loss and one sack in helping the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl berth against USC. He stands at 6-5 and 288 pounds and may need to bulk up to withstand the rigors of the NFL at the defensive tackle position. Last year, he showed promise in winning the Dick Katcher Award as Michigan's top defensive lineman.