WASHINGTON — The preseason practices and games are finished now. Every one of them has been recorded and watched over and over again by the coaching staff and front office.
Now the decisions come. The Redskins have until Saturday at 4 p.m. to trim the roster to 53 players from the current 75. Here is a projection of where the team will go:
Defensive line (7)
The key here is what did coaches see in 13-year veteran Cullen Jenkins in his lone preseason game with the team in Tampa Bay. Seven seems a reasonable number for this unit. But would the team cut a prospect like Matt Ioannidis — its fifth-round pick — and risk losing him? Undrafted rookie Anthony Lanier flashed so often in the final three preseason games you wonder if another team would snap him up. Corey Crawford, on the practice squad all last season, made a push himself. Are the Redskins willing to be patient with younger players here? They could use some. But the risk is that they aren’t ready to make a significant contribution yet.
Inside linebacker (5)
This comes down to one battle — Terrance Garvin or Carlos Fields. Special teams could play a big role. Garvin is an ace there. Fields appeared in five games with Washington last year. Cutting veteran Perry Riley gave those two a legitimate shot to make it. One of them will join Will Compton, Mason Foster, Su’a Cravens and Martrell Spaight.
Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Trent Murphy are fine here. Same as last year — though the Junior Galette season-ending injury really hurt. Bet on Houston Bates as the fourth member of this group though maybe they decide to go with Lynden Trail, a bigger body, instead. This could be a short-term win anyway. The Redskins might be intrigued by pass rushers cut by other teams.
Another tough call. DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton were the primary starters all offseason. Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon both showed well in camp and during games. This might not be an elite group, but the top four are in place. Now, does Deshazor Everett make it? He forced a turnover in the Tampa Bay game on Wednesday and is an excellent special-teams player. Good enough to keep five? A good player has to be cut somewhere. At least that means the roster is heading in the right direction under GM Scot McCloughan.
These guys have all earned their way onto the roster. Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland are the starters. Dashaun Phillips should be the first nickel corner with Kendall Fuller really coming on as training camp continued. Greg Toler and Quinton Dunbar are both safe as well. Toler, especially, had a fine camp. Dunbar still has growing pains and the depth at corner is far better this year than last year. But it’d be a surprise to see them move on from him.
Kirk Cousins is the starter and Colt McCoy is the backup. The only question is do you keep rookie Nate Sudfeld? You’d ideally like to have him on the practice squad. He’s a developmental quarterback for a reason and there’s no one like him in the organization. But cutting Sudfeld means exposing him and a sixth-round draft pick with his size and tools is likely to intrigue other teams. Yes, he’s a lottery pick for now. But a year with a prospect like this has value. You’d be starting over waiting to draft another rookie in 2017.
Running backs (4)
Matt Jones and Chris Thompson are locks. But you have to be ready given their injury history. With rookie Keith Marshall on IR, that leaves Rob Kelley and Mack Brown as the candidates here. They could stick with Kelley – he was impressive all training camp with the ball and in pass protection — and try Brown one more year on the practice squad. But it might be safer to keep all four unless there is an option they see available after final cuts. No fullback. Joe Kerridge was the only one in camp and could be headed for the practice squad. They barely used Darrel Young last season anyway.
Offensive line (8)
Teams usually like to keep nine players for offensive line duty, but numbers elsewhere might dictate eight. Left guard is still up in the air (Shawn Lauvao vs. Spencer Long), but they should both make it. Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses are locks. They are clearly looking for an upgrade at center eventually, but even if the Bryan Stork trade had stuck they weren’t changing there for a while. Kory Lichtensteiger has been the No. 1 all through OTAs and camp. No reason to change now. Ty Nsekhe drew heavy praise from McCloughan during camp. He’s in. It’s hard to believe they’d move away from guard Arie Kouandjio in just his second season. Veteran Josh LeRibeus probably has to hope they keep nine. Maybe the Redskins hold onto a third center in Austin Reiter. But if he can’t play guard that seems a bit much for a roster spot. Takoby Cofield spent all of last season on the practice squad. Rookie Nila Kasitati worked primarily at right guard with the second team and could be a practice squad candidate.
Wide receiver (6)
Here is where injuries play a factor. The Redskins believe rookie Josh Doctson (left Achilles) is ready to take the next step and start practicing. We haven’t actually seen that yet, though, and won’t for a few days at least. They could keep six receivers, including Doctson, and just hope he’s ready for the Pittsburgh game on Sept. 12 or soon thereafter. But if he has a setback in the next week? Certainly, Rashad Ross should be a lock after being the primary kick returner all preseason and catching 11 passes, three for touchdowns, in four games.
Tight end (3)
A tough call. No one really deserves to get cut here. Logan Paulsen could fall victim to a numbers crunch, though. He has three players in front of him (Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Vernon Davis). He has a player behind him (Derek Carrier) who can return from injury in October. Even Marcel Jensen is likely to catch on somewhere. Paulsen has been a fixture here since 2010. Keeping four might be difficult, though.
No competition, no problem. Dustin Hopkins is the kicker, Tress Way is the punter and Nick Sundberg is the long snapper.
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