On the Bubble
By: Mark Solway 
Posted: 2005-08-21
Category: Washington Redskins News
It's usually about this time in the football season that people start pouring over the rosters and seeing which players are 'on the bubble'. There are a lot of good football players that don't make rosters each year, and it's always interesting to watch these players as they are usually getting considerable playing time in the second half of the games that you're watching. The Redskins are no different, so here is a look at how some of these fringe players performed on Friday in the 24-17 loss to the Bengals.

Rock Cartwright: Other than a bad stop on a fourth down and one, Rock had a great game. He finished with 44 yards on 6 carries for an average of 7.3 yards. His numbers were helped largely by a nice 20-yard run, the longest on the day from any running back. Cartwright also had one reception for 6 yards. Obviously the Redskins' one-two punch at running back is secure in Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, Rock is only on the bubble because he's playing for the number three RB spot and the play of Nehemiah Broughton has to have the Redskins looking at fitting him into the plans.

Nehemiah Broughton: Nemo had another solid outing. While his 23 yards on 7 carries were not all that impressive, two statistics were. First, he recorded a touchdown for the second straight week. The Redskins need a tough, short-yardage back that can pump the ball in on the goal line and so far, Nemo has shown a penchant for doing so. Second, he posted an additional 45 yards on 5 catches out of the backfield. Unfortunately, he ended his performance with a fumble when the Redskins were driving late in the game, but he showed enough to still be considered the surprise of the preseason to date. Drafting a guy in the 7th round is hardly a sure recipe for getting a man to fill a spot on the 53-man roster. It will be hard to deny Nemo if he keeps up his play.

Jon Alston: Alston played with the second string offensive line at right tackle. While he did well when the defensive end was in front of him, he really struggled to swivel his hips on quick outside moves. He got a lot of help from tight ends as well; as though Joe Bugel knew he would struggle at times, perhaps Alston was getting his last look.

Jim Molinaro: Still looks like a budding star. He was stalwart with the second unit at left tackle. There was one play where his man beat him slightly to the outside and Jim looked awkward trying to shed the block. Other than that, he dominated most of his one-on-one match-ups and often looked like man among boys. The Redskins should give him some time at right tackle as well so that he is comfortable at both and can back up both spots. He has shown signs of great promise so far in 2005.

Clifton Smith: Where does this guy fit in? As odd as it sounds, he may have the surest shot at backing up the middle linebacker position. He's not likely to win the starting job over Warrick Holdman or Lemar Marshall, but he has played well enough at MLB to show he can be a back up. What he does continue to do is stand out on special teams. He's one of the Redskins' best ST tacklers and registered two more ST tackles on Friday to re-affirm his status.

Chris Clemons: He's so quick and shows such promise but will there be a spot for him this year. The Redskins put him on the practice squad and despite making his way to Cleveland; he made his way back into the Redskins line-up by the end of the season. He has world class speed for a linebacker but he is a role player and there are a lot of other good linebackers that can fill other roles vying for roster spots in 2005. His performance against the Bengals was bittersweet. He did register three tackles and pat down a pass. He also committed two separate penalties on the same play with an offside and a senseless unnecessary roughness on an out of bounds hit. Hardly the way you want to make waves when you're on the bubble.

Andy Groom: Groom got a full blown audition with Tom Tupa being a game time scratch because of a muscle spasm in his back. It's doubtful that the Redskins would even consider replacing Tupa the way he performed in 2004, but Groom certainly made the best of his extended tryout. Two booming punts of fifty-plus yards, including a 56-yarder with no return, highlighted the performance. Groom finished with a 44.8-yard average on his 5 punts and the Bengals managed just 12 yards in punt returns on those 5 chances. Groom may be on the Redskins bubble but Friday's performance likely put him at the top of a lot of call lists if the Redskins do cut him. Unfortunately the practice squad offers the Redskins no protection on keeping Groom but he's certainly worthy of the spot.

Robert Johnson: Johnson was a late comer to the Redskins, but seems to be settling in nicely. He put in a good performance against the Bengals. Albeit playing against second and third stringers, Johnson blocked well on three or four occasions. He was definitely the strongest blocking tight end in the second half performers. He also added a 24-yard reception.

Billy Baber: Good blocking, bad receiving.

Manuel White: The fullback from UCLA will likely make the roster because of his fourth round draft status, but so far he hasn't shown too much playing at the H-back position. He struggled several times with his blocking assignments against the Bengals and while the H-back is a hybrid, you definitely have to be able to block fairly well. The Redskins likely realize that he's learning a new position, but Nemo's performance at running back could force the Redskins to put White on the practice squad strictly for numbers reasons. It will be hard to justify keeping Portis, Betts, Cartwright, Broughton, Cooley, Sellers and White to play RB or HB.

Aki Jones: Who? These are the guys that you get extended looks at in the preseason, and it's where coaches find depth for their rosters. Jones made headlines in the preseason when he camped out at Redskin Park to make sure he wasn't late for the first practice. Since then, he's kept his name on people's lips at Redskin Park by turning in solid performances. He registered one sack last week against the Panthers and had three tackles as well. He fell off to just one tackle and an assist against the Bengals and didn't make much of a splash. When you're on the bubble, you have to make a splash at every opportunity.

Charles Howard: While Howard will still struggle to make the squad, he was the only Redskin to register a sack against the Bengals on a nice hustle play late in the game. He likely put himself on the right side of the bubble for just a little bit longer with the effort.

Rich Parsons: Parsons is never going to make the roster but he has a decent chance at making the practice squad. There's always a place on the practice squad to keep a guy that can come in and return both kickoffs and punts. Parsons continues to see considerable time on special teams in the preseason and while he didn't do anything to secure himself a position, he didn't do anything to hurt himself either.

Jonathon Combs: Combs was always a long shot to make the roster but for the second straight week, he gave the Redskins a reason to include him in the first round of cuts. Last week it was a fumble, this week he let a ball go straight through his hands on an easy reception.

The best thing about these bubble players is that some of these guys are among the hardest working players in professional football. Their effort is what keeps them on the bubble. They deserve some press while they have the chance, so we'll take a look at a few more of them after the Steelers game.

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