by Grant PaulsenBy Grant Paulsen

ASHBURN, Va. (CBSDC) — I’m going to attempt to clear up a few questions surrounding the shape of the Washington Redskins offense this season.

What running backs make the team other than Alfred Morris and Roy Helu?

This might be the toughest position on the roster to properly predict. Morris, a 1,600-yard back last season, is going to start and Helu – the Redskins’ leading rusher in 2012 – is also a slam dunk to make the team. But what other tailbacks will join them on the 53-man roster?

For the sake of this exercise, let’s include fullback Darrel Young as a running back. He will be the only fullback on Washington’s roster and he’ll serve a pivotal role as a lead blocker.

That’s three backs. Do the Redskins keep four or five? It will be one or the other.

My guess is that Washington will keep five running backs (counting Young), with Chris Thompson retained and either Evan Royster or Keiland Williams on the club as well. I wouldn’t have had Thompson on the roster before Richard Crawford was lost for the season in Saturday’s win over the Buffalo Bills, but Thompson could now be in line for an opportunity to be Washington’s punt returner.

Neither Williams or Royster would see much playing time on offense unless Morris or Helu suffered an injury, which is why Williams – plucked off the scrap-heap from Detroit midway through last season – could make the team over Royster, a former draft pick.

Royster is a better rusher and probably has better hands as a receiver out of the backfield, but Williams is better in pass protection and could contribute more consistently on special teams.

Will Mike Shanahan elect to keep a sixth wide receiver?

Shanahan has kept at least six wide receivers in each of his seasons at the controls in Washington. But with three quarterbacks and four tight ends now expected to crack the roster (some teams will keep five players at those two spots), Washington may have to keep one fewer body elsewhere.

Washington’s four locks (Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan) will be the team’s most frequently utilized pass-catchers on game day. Fifth wide receiver Aldrick Robinson has a differentiating attribute to compliment his speed, making him a roster certainty as well.

But will a sixth receiver be kept?

If the Redskins opt to go six deep, that player probably wouldn’t be active on game day. The team would essentially be keeping a player around solely based on the future, for depth in the event that a key receiver went down. Former Kansas star Dez Briscoe, who once caught six touchdowns with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, is still only 23 years-old. He’d be a logical option as a No. 6 wide out. If Briscoe isn’t kept than Lance Lewis would probably be the next receiver in line.

Do the Redskins keep eight or nine offensive linemen?

The starting five has been set in stone since the spring. Left tackle Trent Williams (coming off a Pro Bowl appearance), left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (re-signed this offseason), center Will Montgomery (had his best year in 2012), right guard Chris Chester (hasn’t missed a game in two seasons) and right tackle Tyler Polumbus (re-signed this spring) are locked in at their respected positions.

Second-year tackle Tom Compton will back up Williams and is a lock to make the roster. Fellow 2012 draft picks Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis, both of whom play guard and could fill-in at center in a pinch, should be expected to make the team as well.

That’s eight. But will the Redskins keep a ninth offensive lineman?

Tony Pashos would make the most sense if Mike Shanahan opts for more depth. He’s played right tackle all preseason and could serve as a primary backup for Polumbus. He doesn’t play any other position along the line, so the Redskins would have to keep him because they think he’d be a better reserve at right tackle than Compton would be as a swing option.

Now 33, Pashos was out of football in 2012 but started a dozen games for the Cleveland Browns in 2011. The question as to whether or not the Redskins want to keep a ninth lineman could be more easily asked as “does the team keep Pashos or not?”


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