The Redskins on Tuesday packed up and headed back from Richmond, thus officially ending training camp 2014. Obviously, a lot of practices and preseason football remains between now and the start of the regular season. But things are starting to take shape.
Redskins players feel like they have a decent overall idea of what this team will look like, but they’re still working on hammering out all of the details and features.
“I know what our identity is, but as far as how it will look, I’m not sure,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “Obviously, we’re real optimistic right now, but it’s like that every camp.
“We’re going to be a physical team. We’re going to run the ball, and we’ve got weapons on the outside so we’re going to take shots. Defense is going to make tackles, they’re going to compete at a high level, and they’re going to hustle. As a team, we have all the tools in the tool box to be a great team. We just have to put it together.”
And while the players try to put it all together, coaches must figure out who exactly belongs, and who does not.
Yesterday we took a look at key position battles that remain. Today, let’s take a stab at the 53-man roster. Plenty could change between now and the first cut-down day (Aug. 26), and it could change some more between then and the final cuts (Aug. 30).
But here’s how things look as of now:
Quarterback – 3 – Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy
Originally, I had thought they’d likely carry only two. But Jay Gruden and Sean McVay like McCoy, and Tuesday, Gruden praised the play of the fifth-year veteran and said three is a possibility. Given Griffin’s injury history, it might be wise to keep McCoy.
Running back – 4 – Alfred Morris, Roy Helu Jr., Chris Thompson, fullback Darrel Young
As Gruden said earlier this week, Morris is a “slam-dunk” and Helu has the coaches’ confidence as well. Thompson needs to get on the field and stay there. If so, he brings an element of speed and elusiveness that the other backs lack. Evan Royster is a solid all-around back, but doesn’t present a game-changing threat that Thompson could. For now, Silas Redd would have an edge on Lache Seastrunk, but they may both end up on the practice squad.
Wide receiver – 6 – Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Ryan Grant
Coaches haven’t hidden their feelings about these six receivers, and all have shown why in practices. Robinson and Grant also did well for themselves in the preseason opener. Leonard Hankerson might have bumped Robinson out had he been healthy. But for now, we’ll put Hankerson on the PUP list. Nick Williams has had some nice moments in practice, and Rashad Ross, Lee Doss, Rashad Lawrence and Cody Hoffman all have had moments against fellow second, third and fourth-string defensive backs. But all lack the consistency that Grant and the veterans have displayed.
Tight end – 3 – Jordan Reed, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul
This is pretty cut-and-dried. Reed is the game-changer, Paulsen the underrated, hard-working, precisely-executing veteran, and Paul can do a little bit of everything, but his forte is special teams, which is not an afterthought for this coaching staff. Rookie Ted Bolser can get through to their practice squad.
Offensive line – 9 – Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Morgan Moses, Mike McGlynn, Spencer Long, Tom Compton
This one is tough. I went back and forth from nine to 10 (scrapping the third QB), back to nine, back to 10 again, and then back to nine for the time being. The starters are all set. Rookies Moses and Long, and third-year guys LeRibeus and Compton haven’t done enough to unseat any of the guys in front of them. Coaches really like Long and believe he just needs more seasoning. McGlynn is valuable because he has proven himself in the NFL both as a guard and center. You need that with young, inconsistent guys at the other interior spots. LeRibeus has not yet proven to be a better option than Long. Coaches are only lukewarm on him. Neither Moses nor Compton has looked great, but Compton is slightly further along. He’s been first man up if Williams or Polumbus is out. He has also joined the starters in some jumbo packages. For now, Redskins fans had better pray no one gets hurt.
Defensive line – 6 – Chris Baker, Barry Cofield, Jason Hatcher, Jarvis Jenkins, Chris Neild, Kedric Golston
Coaches have described Jenkins as the most improved player on defense. He’s finally playing with a fire. He’ll remain the starter at right end until Hatcher fully regains his strength and explosiveness, and then will rotate in and out, playing often. Washington signed Clifton Geathers early in free agency, but he has not impressed in drills versus starters. He has had moments against LeRibeus, but he definitely doesn’t look like a guy I would’ve signed on the second day of free agency. Golston, because of his consistency, versatility and special teams play, gets the nod as the other end. The Redskins don’t know what will happen with Stephen Bowen (still rehabbing from microfracture surgery). It looks like he possibly could open the season on PUP. Neild has been solid behind Cofield.
Linebacker – 9 – Ryan Kerrigan, Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley, Brian Orakpo, Trent Murphy, Adam Hayward, Will Compton, Rob Jackson, Darryl Sharpton
The starters are clear, and Murphy has a key role on nickel packages. But when Orakpo or Kerrigan has not practiced, Jackson has gotten the nod as the replacement starter. Coaches are encouraged by Compton’s development, and he does well on special teams. Hayward and Sharpton are pretty interchangeable on defense. Hayward is special teams captain. Sharpton excels on special teams as well, and plays with a fiery, violent style. They both do better in pass coverage than does Akeem Jordan, who despite his experience, looks like odd man out.
Cornerback – 5 – DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, E.J. Biggers, Bashaud Breeland, Tracy Porter
Again, no question as to who will start, and Biggers has consistently joined Hall and Amerson as the nickelback. Porter got off to a rough start, but he seems to be improving now that he is shaking off rust from missing time due to shoulder surgery. Coaches love Breeland’s potential. For now, his key area of contribution will be special teams. Richard Crawford hasn’t been able to overtake the rookie. Coaches like Chase Minnifield, too, but he has practice squad eligibility.
Safety – 5 – Brandon Meriweather, Ryan Clark, Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, Trenton Robinson
This area could see the most change between now and cutdown day. Meriweather and Clark are your starters. Coaches would like for Phillip Thomas to prove they were right about him when they drafted him. But he has to get on the field and stay there. He’s missing valuable time. Rambo’s tackling woes are well-documented. But Jim Haslett said, “I thought he had a heck of a game,” based on the improved showing the second-year player showed in the preseason opener. Rambo took better angles and made sure tackles. But he needs to do it consistently. A lot of questions remain about both Thomas and Rambo. Robinson is a capable and willing tackler, and excels on special teams. Akeem Davis has potential, but he can make it to the practice squad. One wildcard is Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, who joined the team last Saturday. The fourth-year veteran, who in Pittsburgh backed up Clark and Troy Polamalu, has familiarity with the concepts because the Steelers run the same defense. He has good size and versatility, and coaches are intrigued by him. Once up to speed, he could wind up threatening some of his fellow young roster hopefuls.
Specialists – 3 – Kai Forbath, Robert Malone, Nick Sundberg
Yes, the Redskins drafted Zach Hocker in the seventh round, and he did have a better showing than Forbath in the preseason opener. But those two have been in a seesaw battle all of camp. Ultimately, I think experience will win out. (Really, though, with kickers, it’s so hard to tell. This pick could change next week and the week after, and after). Malone and Blake Clingan both have strong legs, but Malone has a history with special teams coach Ben Kotwica in New York. Sundberg is reliable and has no competition.
We’ll check back in next week to see where things stand, and if anyone has made a strong push, or big slide with their play against the Browns.