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Redskins get down to 53, keep undrafted free agents Cam Sims, Danny Johnson

Redskins wide receiver Cam Sims makes a catch during training camp. An undrafted free agent, Sims earned a spot on the 53-man roster. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

Late in the spring, back when wide receiver Cam Sims and cornerback Danny Johnson sat through three days of the NFL draft without their names getting called, neither man could have expected he would be on a team’s roster the first week of the season.

But Saturday afternoon, as Washington Redskins players made the lonely walk to dreaded meetings with coaches, their playbooks in hand, no one called for Sims or Johnson. By the 4 p.m. deadline, Johnson’s friends were tweeting their congratulations to him, and a person close to Sims said the wide receiver’s mother was celebrating her son’s improbable rise to the NFL.

Both might have been the biggest surprises on a final roster that didn’t have too many shocks.

Perhaps the most interesting story beyond Sims and Johnson is that the Redskins kept five running backs, something few expected them to do. Last month’s signing of Adrian Peterson opened heavy competition at a position where none had been expected. In addition to Peterson, Washington kept Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. Perine’s place on the team seemed in question after recent fumbling issues. Marshall has missed time recently with an upper leg injury but was kept on the final roster.

Kapri Bibbs, who had played well in the preseason, was the only significant running back let go Saturday. He could be brought back, however, when Marshall goes on injured reserve.

Coach Jay Gruden, speaking Saturday night at a charity event in Loudoun County, said he felt badly for Bibbs, “who did everything right,” but there was no room. Gruden was most excited about Kelley, who “showed some slashing ability, showed some speed, showed some toughness in the hole.”

Rob Kelley runs for a roster spot in Redskins’ final preseason game

The Redskins kept six wide receivers with Sims, Maurice Harris and Trey Quinn backing up starters Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson Jr. and Josh Doctson. Jeremy Sprinkle appears to have won the third and final tight end spot behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis.

They retained at least nine offensive linemen with Geron Christian, Tony Bergstrom and Ty Nsekhe and Casey Dunn taking the final spots. Guard Tyler Catalina will open the season on injured reserve.

Six defensive linemen made the final roster, with Ziggy Hood, Tim Settle and Anthony Lanier earning the backup spots. Backup linebackers Ryan Anderson and Zach Vigil also made the team. The biggest surprise cut on defense was middle linebacker Martrell Spaight, who started eight games last year and had 68 tackles. Defensive end Stacy McGee was placed on the physically unable to perform list.

As expected, the Redskins held on to six cornerbacks, with Johnson, Fabian Moreau, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman behind starters Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar. Only four safeties were kept: Montae Nicholson, D.J. Swearinger, Deshazor Everett and Troy Apke. Josh Holsey was placed on the non-football injury list.

Third-string quarterback Kevin Hogan was let go. Backup Colt McCoy missed practices last week, leading to speculation that Hogan might be retained, but apparently McCoy is healthy enough that the team did not need a third quarterback.

Still, the biggest news might have been Sims making the team. He had intrigued Washington’s coaches and executives all summer by making plays in training camp. At 6-foot-5 with long arms, he created an appealing pass target and is something the Redskins desperately need — a player who can leap for high passes in the back of the end zone. Doug Williams, senior vice president of player personnel, said two weeks ago that Sims had “thrown a grenade” into the wide receiver competition.

Cam Sims followed a huge mistake with a big play and still has a shot at a roster spot

He was inconsistent in preseason games but he seems to have shown enough to stick — if for no other reason than the coaches didn’t want to lose him. His status seemed in doubt after he failed to make a catch in Thursday night’s 30-20 preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but Brian Quick — his primary competition — only caught one pass.

“Brian had had an unfortunate injury in camp and wasn’t able to quite show what he could do,” Gruden said about the decision to keep Sims over Quick. “Anytime you have a guy show up like Cam showed up, I think you have to keep him.”

Johnson, who played at Southern, was the biggest surprise of the camp, steadily moving up the depth chart. His development was a big reason the team was comfortable with releasing Orlando Scandrick in the middle of camp.

“Danny is awesome,” Gruden said, adding the team had targeted Johnson since the Senior Bowl and wanted to bring him to camp. “If you are a college free agent and you make an NFL team, its quite a dang accomplishment. I’m happy for Danny. He’s done everything right. He’s competed. . . . He can run. He can do special teams.”

Read more on the Redskins:

Brewer: What four preseason have told us about the Redskins.

RGIII makes Ravens final roster as Baltimore keeps three QBs

After one hit ended his Redskins career, Kyshoen Jarrett coaches with hopes of a comeback

875 pounds of fish, 54 dozen eggs and a kombucha machine: A week feeding an NFL team

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