The excitement surrounding rookie running back Derrius Guice was probably too high for somebody who had never played a meaningful NFL snap, but all signs pointed to the LSU product having an immediate impact on the offense. That was before he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the first preseason game. The running back room became a concern as preseason injuries decimated the position. Those health issues, however, opened the door for future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and his 12,276 career rushing yards to make the team. It’s unclear how much juice the 33-year-old has left and whether his occasional bursts of brilliance can last for an entire season at this stage of his career. Chris Thompson returns from a broken leg as one of the best third-down backs in the league, but he did not play during the preseason as coaches slowly worked him back. Rob Kelley is back for a third season, and second-year pros Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall also made the roster.
The organization hopes it brought in a home run threat in Paul Richardson Jr., who signed a five-year, $40 million free agent deal in March. The former Seattle Seahawks wideout brings deep speed opposite the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Josh Doctson, who dealt with a heel injury in training camp but is expected to finally have a breakout season after being selected No. 22 overall in the 2016 draft. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder may be the biggest beneficiary of Smith’s presence and his excellence working intermediate and underneath routes. He could be in position to have a career year after finishing with 66 catches for 789 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. “Mr. Irrelevant” Trey Quinn has been studying the slot under Crowder and showed strong hands during the preseason. Maurice Harris seems to be ready to be active on a weekly basis after shining during the preseason. He has played just 16 games in his first two seasons. Undrafted rookie Cam Sims was a surprise standout during the summer and made the team as a sixth wide receiver.
Jordan Reed remains a unique offensive weapon and one of the best tight ends in the league when healthy. The problem is the 6-2, 245-pounder is coming off a pair of toe surgeries and has never played a full season. Reed has played more than 12 games just once in his first five years. He should also feast with Smith if he can remain on the field. Reed will likely make the difference between this offense being truly dangerous or just a middle-of-the-pack unit. Vernon Davis is a legitimate weapon for a backup tight end who still has speed at 34 years old. He and Smith seem to still have a connection dating back to their days playing together in San Francisco. Second-year pro Jeremy Sprinkle is back as the third-string tight end.
The offensive line is probably the best unit on the roster. Left tackle Trent Williams is a six-time Pro Bowl honoree, and right tackle Morgan Moses was named the team’s 2017 offensive player of the year as the only starter on the line to play every game. Right guard Brandon Scherff has two Pro Bowl nods in his first three seasons and is in line for a major extension in the near future. Chase Roullier is the Lou Gehrig to Spencer Long’s Wally Pipp, taking over the starting center job when Long was injured and never giving it back. Long signed a free agent deal with the Jets during the offseason. Left guard Shawn Lauvao tested free agency but returned on a one-year deal after struggling with injuries. Fourth-year veteran Ty Nsekhe and third-round rookie Geron Christian are the swing tackles, while Tony Bergstrom can play guard and center. Undrafted free agent Casey Dunn also made the team as a rookie as another backup center.
The defensive line should be the most improved area on the roster after Daron Payne was drafted No. 13 overall and with 2017 first-round pick Jonathan Allen back from injury. The pair of Alabama products have made an immediate impact on a unit that ranked last in the league against the run last season. There are high expectations for the combination and fellow starter Matt Ioannidis. Adding Tim Settle, who many believe was a steal in the fifth round, and third-year lineman Anthony Lanier to the mix gives the Redskins a young core for the future of the position. Ziggy Hood brings veteran leadership to the room and versatility to the field.
Every starter returns for 2018 — Ryan Kerrigan, Zach Brown, Mason Foster and Preston Smith. Kerrigan is coming off a 13-sack season as an edge rusher, and Brown re-signed after he led the team with 127 tackles. Foster is the quarterback of the defense, and Smith is a physical specimen who has yet to fully play up to that potential opposite Kerrigan. There is also hope that 2017 second-rounder Ryan Anderson will get closer to his ceiling on the outside after starring at Alabama. Rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton could be a sixth-round steal if the former Alabama captain can stay healthy, which was an issue in Tuscaloosa. Eighth-year veteran Pernell McPhee can provide depth, and second-year players Zach Vigil and Josh Harvey-Clemons round out the group.
The Redskins said goodbye to four-year starter Bashaud Breeland and nickel cornerback Kendall Fuller and committed to a youth movement after releasing Orlando Scandrick, who had signed in the spring. Quinton Dunbar is now the starter opposite Josh Norman, and this is the biggest opportunity of the converted wide receiver’s career. Fabian Moreau, the 2017 third-round pick, takes over at nickel. The backups are three rookies: undrafted free agent Danny Johnson, who was one of the surprises of camp, seventh-round pick Greg Stroman and supplemental draft pick Adonis Alexander.
Montae Nicholson will start at safety in his second year after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017. He finished his rookie season on injured reserve because of a concussion. Nicholson will line up next to veteran D.J. Swearinger, who had four interceptions last season and three in 2016. Swearinger is out to prove he is one of the best safeties in the league. Deshazor Everett is back after re-signing on a two-year, $2.6 million deal to add depth to the back end. Washington also drafted Penn State speedster Troy Apke in the fourth round.
Dustin Hopkins is back for a fourth season with the Redskins after hitting 82.4 percent of his field goals last season. Tress Way returns for a fifth season after averaging 45.7 yards per punt to rank No. 13 in the league last year among regular punters. Long snapper Nick Sundberg will play his ninth season in Washington.
Read more on the Redskins: