Correction: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly reported that the Redskins started the past two seasons with the youngest roster in the NFL. The team had the league’s oldest roster in 2009 and 2010.
In case there were any lingering doubts, the Washington Redskins will look decidedly different in Mike Shanahan’s second year as head coach than they did in his first.
The team trimmed its roster from 80 players to 53 Saturday, revealing a roster that bears only passing resemblance to what Shanahan used last season. Barely half of last year’s Week 1 roster — 27 players in all — survived on the team Shanahan will use to begin preparations for next Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants.
While Saturday’s cuts didn’t include any major surprises, the team did part ways with a handful of veterans: linebacker Horatio Blades, safety Chris Horton, nose tackle Anthony Bryant and offensive lineman Artis Hicks. Gone, too, are running back Keiland Williams, quarterback Kellen Clemens and three 2011 draft picks, including Evan Royster, the former Penn State running back who was selected in the sixth round.
But more noteworthy were the players who will stick around. Supplanted at fullback by Darrel Young, Mike Sellers’s status was tenuous throughout the preseason. But his special teams contributions secured his job, and he also provides some insurance in case Chris Cooley’s ailing knee is slow to recover. Return specialist Brandon Banks, who missed two preseason games with a sore knee, survived the cut, as did running back Ryan Torain, who broke his hand in training camp and didn’t see any action until the final preseason game last Thursday. Veteran wide receiver Donte Stallworth is also still with the team.
The Redskins had started the past two seasons with the oldest
youngest roster in the league, but that surely won’t be the case this season. The 53-man roster includes eight rookies, and a ninth — defensive end Jarvis Jenkins — is on injured reserved. Surviving the preseason and attending practice on Saturday were: linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (first round), wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (third), running back Roy Helu (fourth), safety DeJon Gomes (fifth), wide receiver Niles Paul (fifth), three seventh-rounders in cornerback Brandyn Thompson, linebacker Markus White, nose tackle Chris Neild and undrafted rookie offensive tackle Willie Smith.
There’s no universal formula for a 53-man roster, but this rough draft suggests more moves will be coming in the next couple of days. After Saturday’s cuts, the Redskins had eight wide receivers and nine linebackers but just six defensive linemen and only three reserve offensive linemen. They have no backup guards, only three healthy safeties and just two quarterbacks.
With more than 800 NFL players losing their jobs the past couple of days, there are plenty of options suddenly available on the market. The Redskins will likely look to address depth along both the offensive and defensive lines and could also look to add another safety. Kareem Moore will start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list and will miss the first six weeks of the season, and LaRon Landry didn’t practice during the preseason and could miss the Redskins’ season-opener against the Giants.
The Redskins will also need to address their logjam at wide receiver. Most teams carry only five or six players at the position, but the Redskins have eight and could try to trade one or two to address other areas of need.
Parting ways with both Bryant and Doug Worthington, the Redskins currently have only three reserve defensive linemen — Neild, Kedric Golston, and Darrion Scott. And by releasing Hicks, who started 10 games last season, Erik Cook is the team’s only reserve interior lineman.
Shanahan prefers to think of his roster as 61 players deep. The Redskins can begin adding their eight practice squad players at noon Sunday. They’ll likely select a couple of young players they released Saturday and might also shop for a quarterback. Releasing Clemens means the Redskins have only John Beck and Rex Grossman, a decision inspired in part by a new NFL rule that no longer allows teams to designate an emergency quarterback. They’d likely need a third arm to run the scout team at practices.
The longest-tenured Redskin released Saturday was Blades, a sixth-round pick in 2007 who has been a key special teams contributor the past four seasons. Horton was a seventh-round pick in 2008 and started 15 games his first two seasons in Washington but none last year under Shanahan.
Of the Redskins 10 picks in that 2008 draft class, only tight end Fred Davis, linebacker Rob Jackson and Moore are still with the team.