BOSTON — Starters won’t see significant action when the Washington Redskins open the preseason in New England on Thursday, and the coaching staff will be careful with significant contributors with lingering injuries. The roster sits at 90 players with an eventual cutoff of 53, plus a 10-man practice squad, before the season begins. That leaves a lot of hopefuls needing to make an impression in live action beyond practice. Here are the top players that should be looking to take advantage of the extra snaps in a live game.
(Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of players kept at a position in 2017 after final cuts.)
Quarterback (2): Kevin Hogan. Alex Smith is the starter and Colt McCoy is a Jay Gruden favorite. Hogan needs to show something and he doesn’t get a ton of opportunities in training camp as Smith continues to build chemistry with his new teammates. These games are a chance for the hometown hero to convince the coaching staff to keep three quarterbacks.
Running back (4): Kapri Bibbs, Byron Marshall, Martez Carter. The Redskins are likely to keep just four running backs, and second-round pick Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson are locks. It would be a surprise if returning starter Rob Kelley doesn’t make the cut. That leaves 2017 fourth-round pick Samaje Perine as the favorite of those remaining, and the decision is likely to contain some special teams factors.
Wide receiver (5): Maurice Harris, Trey Quinn, Robert Davis. The starters are set with Paul Richardson, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. Harris has probably had the best camp of the non-starters and Quinn has shown fantastic hands in the slot while learning from Crowder, despite being the last pick in the draft. Davis has had flashes. All three need to show that playmaking ability transfers from the practice field.
Tight end (4): Jeremy Sprinkle, Matt Flanagan. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are in. Sprinkle has had his moments in camp and has a significant lead on the rest. Gruden kept four tight ends in 2017, but Niles Paul was a utility player that could play multiple positions. This may be where Gruden saves a roster spot for another position.
Offensive line (8): Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom. Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Chase Roullier, Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Ty Nsekhe and Geron Christian are all in. That’s seven bodies and a lot of tackles. There is no clear-cut backup center and Gruden has said that player also will need to play guard. Bergstrom and Catalina are the best of the rest on the inside and the numbers are tight.
Defensive line (6): Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor, Anthony Lanier. It’s strange to say established veterans such as Hood and Taylor need to prove anything in preseason games, but we’re looking at the numbers here. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle are all making the club. Going by last year’s count, that leaves two spots. Lanier appears to consistently stand out in 1-on-1 drills against offensive linemen and has plenty of room to grow in his third year after posting five sacks in 2017. Taylor was listed as the third-string nose tackle behind Settle on the first depth chart and is most likely the odd man out if the Redskins stick with six defensive linemen. And don’t forget that Stacy McGee, who started 10 games last season, is on the physically unable to perform list.
Linebacker (10): Josh Harvey-Clemons, Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Pete Robertson. There’s a lot of uncertainty after Preston Smith, Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Anderson and Pernell McPhee. Hamilton should also be safe, but there is an injury history and a sixth-round pick isn’t a ton of draft capital invested. Harvey-Clemons was running first-team when Brown was injured, but he’s listed as third-team on the first depth chart. Gruden recently raved about Robertson.
Cornerback (6): Greg Stroman, Adonis Alexander, Danny Johnson. Stroman has been inconsistent in the secondary during camp, but is a threat on special teams, particularly on kick returns. The top four of Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Orlando Scandrick and Fabian Moreau are making the team. Alexander cost a sixth-round pick in the supplemental draft, so there’s some incentive to keep him. There are decisions to be made after the top four.
Safety (5): Quin Blanding, Kenny Ladler, Fish Smithson. Montae Nicholson, D.J. Swearinger, Deshazor Everett and Troy Apke are locked in. Blanding has a high football I.Q. and has been working extra with Norman, but doesn’t have the same physical blessings as some others. He was a third-team all-American at Virginia, but he went undrafted as teams were concerned about his physical limitations. Ladler has shown flashes in camp.
Special teams (3): Nobody. Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way and Nick Sunberg have no competition.
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