Shaun McDonald Should Be The #5
Probably the quietest stat from the pre-season opener versus the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday was the 6 catch, 69 yard performance by veteran free agent receiver Shaun McDonald. McDonald is still fairly young at 28 and can play in various positions. He is a solid possession receiver and works well out of the slot. Of his 220 career receptions, 126 have moved the chains. McDonald also adds the element of being able to return punts if needed.
The biggest thing McDonald will add is veteran experience. With Limas Sweed and Mike Wallace on the roster, McDonald will be an experienced presence should either Hines Ward or Santonio Holmes were to miss time with injuries. If Ward were to go down for example, McDonald would be the best choice to replace him in the slot. If McDonald were not on the roster, Holmes would likely have to assume that role. By using McDonald in the slot it would allow the other 3 receivers to work at their normal positions they are accustomed to.
While McDonald can forget having a career year, but he can certainly chip in 20-30 receptions in 2009. He does a good job of using his quickness and smarts to get open and has seen enough defenses to know where the soft zones are and how to exploit them. His biggest contributions will likely be on third downs and he is pretty sure handed as well.
If you add all of this up, it is easy to see why McDonald should easily grab the number 5 receiver roster spot. Do not let the number fool you though, as McDonald will see the field more than you think on situational downs.