This post contributed by Scott Hirsch.
Now that the dust is settling and Gruden has been straightforward about several roster spots (i.e. Grant and Robinson are almost definitely locks at WR), what are the key battles to watch?
In a nutshell, many of the remaining spots will be determined on Special Teams. And it’s not just Safety against Safety, for example Trenton Robinson vs. Akeem Davis for the 5th roster Safety spot, it’s the winner of the 5th Safety spot vs. the 5th Inside Linebacker and even other outsider position challenges.
A great battle to watch during Special Teams in the remaining preseason games will be Trenton Robinson vs. Akeem Davis vs. Cromartie-Smith (a recent Safety signing). Robinson has been a pleasant surprise as a hard hitter at Safety and good Special Team player. His shortcoming is well, being short in a league trying to copy Seattle’s monster large secondary. Davis showed up with a giant hit that Gruden noted right away. He was a bit neutral when playing Safety, but his athletic strength, ability and potential is off the charts. Cromartie-Smith is a tall Safety and is a bit late to the game, but there is still time.
Linebackers Will Compton and Akeem Jordan (and maybe Sharpton) are locked in a fierce battle at backup Inside Linebacker. Compton had a fantastic game against the Patriots with a stripped fumble on Special Teams and as a reliable tackler at Inside Linebacker. His knock was pass coverage, and he seemed to have improved and was not a liability against the Patriots there.
WR Rashad Ross had a good kickoff return and a great 35-yard catch against the Patriots. One could bet the coaches will test him more as a returner. If he shines, he could win a returner job and land as the sixth or seventh Wide Receiver. He is in battle of sorts with Santana Moss, Tight End Ted Bolser, Chris Thompson, Cody Hoffman and perhaps a couple others.
Stay tuned and keep special attention focused on Special Teams these upcoming preseason games for standouts. Heavy hitting almost guaranteed!