For veteran players, preseason games are a warm-up for the start of the season.
For younger players attempting to make the final cut, they’re considered the most important contests of their green careers.
Thursday’s matchup against New England will be the first test for rookies to see action in an NFL game, with the coaches evaluating every play to see who they want to stick around on Sundays.
“It’s just a surreal moment, but I have to keep in mind that I have a job to uphold and take care of so I can make the final 53-man roster,” rookie wide receiver Darvin Kidsy said. “It feels real good to know that my dreams have come true, but you have to realize there’s a lot of things to accomplish.”
The opportunities in preseason games are given based off the performance in training camp. 2018’s practices have shown that younger players who are consistently making plays in their group have the opportunity to showcase their skills with regular starters, moving from the second team to the first team.
With some of the veterans taking days off, that gives rookies the opportunity for more reps. Receivers like Kidsy have had the opportunity to work with quarterback Alex Smith during individual work and in the team segments, snaps where each prospective player tries to gain an advantage.
“Every rep, I try to make it count,” Kidsy said. “Every play, I try to make it count. Any rep I get, I just make the best of it whether it’s threes, twos, ones. Everybody’s a pro, so I just treat it the same.”
Those four games prior to the regular season don’t just mean something for the rookies, but also those with a year or two of service under their belts. Second-year safety Fish Smithson is excited about his second round of preseason games, remembering that’s where he got his chance to show off his talents. In the Redskins’ third preseason game in 2017 against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas product picked off a pass and returned it for 63 yards.
Although Smithson did not make the final 53-man team, his performance allowed him to stick on the practice squad and eventually be moved up to the active roster during the final two games of the regular season. Expecting to get quality minutes beginning on Thursday, he once again sees the preseason as an opportunity to show the coaches how he can be a contributor to this year’s team.
“I got to go out there, got to perform on special teams, got to perform on defense when I’m out there and making plays I’m supposed to make," Smithson said. “Be out there communicating, running out there, running to the ball and making sure we’re all on the same page back there on defense because you know that’s a key. Everybody communicating, everybody on the same page. I feel like these preseason games are going to be good for us.”
The Washington Redskins conducted their tenth day of training camp practice Monday, August 6, 2018 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
While the second-year players have more experience in NFL game action, they’re not thinking that they are a lock to make the Redskins. Guard Tyler Catalina managed to make the final cut after last year’s training camp, but understands that there are rookies hungry for a taste of professional football.
Despite having the advantage of gaining that game action already, he still looks at the preseason games as an “audition for a roster spot”. Catalina believes that it’s not what he or other second-year players did last year that makes their case, but what they can do to help the team now before Week 1.
“Coming in as an undrafted guy, you don’t really get the respect that the drafted guys get,” Catalina said. “Every year, it’s going to be the same thing proving yourself and giving the coaches a reason why you should be there. That’s my goal in preseason is to just to prove why I deserve to be here.”