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With DeSean Jackson Sidelined, An Opportunity For Rashad Ross

Wide receiver Rashad Ross will make his Redskins regular season debut Sunday, hoping to close the gap left by DeSean Jackson's hamstring injury.

Even after his outstanding preseason, one in which he caught four touchdowns and led the league with 266 receiving yards, Redskins wide receiver Rashad Ross was still nervous about making the team's final 53-man roster. Had he done enough, he wondered, to find a spot where the team needed him?

Now with the Redskins heading into the second week of the season against the Rams sans wide receiver DeSean Jackson, sidelined for a few weeks due to hamstring injury, the question and the worry don't seem as warranted.

Check out these photos of the Redskins preparing for their Week 2 matchup against the St. Louis Rams Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

Ross, who made great strides this preseason in his route-running and speed, is one of a few receivers who will be counted on to make up for some of Jackson's playmaking role -- his ability to stretch the field and pick up large chunks of yardage -- and aid quarterback Kirk Cousins against a strong Rams defensive front.

Ross could also be used Sunday as a kick returner alongside Chris Thompson, head coach Jay Gruden said this week.

"I'm just taking everything day by day," Ross said. "Going out there, when my number's called, doing my best, running my routes, catching the ball, making sure I know my assignment before the game. So when it's game time, I can be ready."

Ross was inactive last Sunday against the Dolphins, so this week will be the first time he'll take the field for an NFL regular season game with the Redskins after appearing in two games with the Bears in 2014 without recording a catch.

Designated mostly to practice squads for the entirety of his young career, he's approached the occasion the same as he always has, though he anticipates the nerves coming on game day.

"The other day, when I first found out, I was kind of nervous," Ross said. "Now it's just setting in, it's another game; honestly I'm not going to have no feeling about it until I actually step on the field on Sunday. Stay calm, do my job, work hard, go to practice every day."

For the majority of his career, Ross was labeled a "burner," but worked hard to shed some of that stigma recently. He and quarterback Colt McCoy worked extra after practices in the preseason to sharpen routes and Ross credited Jackson to teaching him how to "practice like a pro" this summer.

Right now, he doesn't feel any expectation to immediately fill Jackson's shoes, not with other, veteran receivers due to carry the brunt of the offense Sunday. But Jackson sees a lot of potential in Ross.

"He's a young guy, but he has a lot of talent," Jackson said. "So he's just got to continue to do what he's been doing all offseason. When your number is called, making a play and spark the team up with energy by making a play that guys of our stature do, guys that can make the big plays down the field that bring energy to the team. As long as he's able to do that, I think he'll be alright."

The benefit of playing lots of snaps in the preseason for Ross was being able to find a rhythm and a trust in Cousins. That rapport should help, especially in plays where Cousins is forced to scramble out of the pocket and look for receivers to ad-lib downfield.

"The chemistry is already there," Ross said of Cousins. But Sunday, when he's on a field where the games actually count, his numbers in preseason will carry little weight.

"It's just like coach says, the next man up," Ross said. "You can't really think about what happened yesterday. That's just like saying I had a great preseason -- I can't think about that because it ain't preseason no more. I still got to go out there and work hard and do better for the next game or the next day."

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