FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — It's T-minus one week until the first preseason game. That means it's go time for players looking to make a name for themselves and, most importantly, earn a roster spot.
Insert Carlos Washington Jr., an undrafted rookie running back out of Southeastern Louisiana. A small school perhaps best known for ABC anchor Robin Roberts' collegiate basketball career, which earned a jersey placed in the rafters.
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Ask anyone, whether it's head coach Arthur Smith, running backs coach Michael Pitre or veteran playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson and they'll tell you the same thing — Washington is a sharp player with a prime opportunity in his hands.
"He's impressed us everyday," Smith said. "He's a really smart football player. He's got a great opportunity."
Patterson noted that he picked up the offense quick. What is Washington's ceiling, according to the star running back?
At this level, it's a given that everyone has what it takes to be here. Now it's about critiquing those minor details, Washington said.
He observes the little things from the other running backs on the training camp roster. Like how not to cut off his inside foot or looking the ball all the way into his hands.
"It's always good to watch others just to critique myself and see how I can get better," Washington said. "What can I take from their game and put it into my game and (use) it in my own way?"
He'll have some strong competition ahead of him, including fellow rookie Bijan Robinson, picked No. 8 overall. Then there's aforementioned four-time Pro Bowler Patterson. Not even to mention sophomore Tyler Allgeier who led the Falcons in rushing last season.
Barring injury, those three guys are locks.
Might Washington force the Falcons to keep a fourth running back? Or could he earn a practice squad spot? No matter what happens, Washington wants to put good work on film.
"We've all been there before as a rookie coming in, playing preseason. If it's not this team, it's 31 other teams out there that's watching," Patterson said. "Everybody's watching."
Though, Washington has a couple more tricks in his bag to make his case. He prides himself his versatility and being more than just a running back.
Pitre said he has the ability to fill multiple roles, from being a natural runner to catching the ball well, too.
He did exactly that in practice Friday. In team drills, Washington scored a touchdown off a screen to the left. He stayed patient and busted into open space as the offensive line opened the floodgates.
"I just came out today and just tried to fly around and be special and make plays," he said.
He will look to make special plays with some preseason playing time beginning Aug. 11 against the Miami Dolphins.
"When my number's called and, whether that's run game, pass game, special teams — whatever it is — I'm just going to go out there and give it my all and put it on the line," Washington said.