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Washington forms its 53-man roster, with Sammis Reyes, Jaret Patterson making the cut

Washington Football Team tight end Sammis Reyes (80) has made the team's initial 53-man roster. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Ron Rivera wanted speed and youth, and after six months of retooling the Washington Football Team’s roster, he says he believes he has found both.

After beginning to trim the roster Monday, Rivera and his staff cut 17 more players Tuesday to form their initial 53-man roster for the regular season — a group that, on paper at least, offers upgrades at key positions and depth at areas once lacking.

“This is a young football team, and unless I miscounted, we have 25 guys [in their] rookie year, second year and third year in the league,” Rivera told reporters Tuesday evening. “We’re building, and to be able to add that kind of youth onto the roster and at the same time add that speed, we feel good about it. We feel comfortable.”

Among the more surprising cuts were second-year wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, veteran running back Peyton Barber and cornerback Jimmy Moreland, all of whom were considered candidates for roster spots at various points but had faced stiff competition at their respective positions.

Washington also cut Jeremy Reaves, a safety who started three games late last season; defensive end William Bradley-King, a seventh-round rookie out of Baylor; cornerback Danny Johnson, who doubled as Washington’s leading kick returner last season; offensive tackle David Sharpe and guard Wes Martin.

The team may make additional changes before the season opener Sept. 12, but the core of the team is in place. And it features two players who charted unlikely paths to the active roster.

Making the NFL at 5-foot-7 is a tall order. Maurice Jones-Drew showed Jaret Patterson the way.

Sammis Reyes, a Chilean former basketball player who arrived with only 10 weeks of training in football, earned a spot at tight end, and undrafted rookie Jaret Patterson made it as the team’s third running back.

Reyes is still viewed as a work-in-progress as he continues to learn the sport and refine his skills, but his making the roster represented a major step in his rapid ascent. He traveled from Chile to the United States as a teen, and he converted from basketball to football after only two months of training.

“It’s been very exciting watching Sammis from start to where we are right now,” General Manager Martin Mayhew said. “He’s improved dramatically. … He has every tool that you want as an athlete. It’s just getting him to translate that into playing this game. He did a lot of really promising things in the games that he played in that gives the indication that he’s on the right track. We do see him as a guy who’s a very valuable guy to try to develop for the future.”

Patterson stands only 5-foot-7 and was listed as the team’s fifth back on its initial camp depth chart, but he led the team in both receiving (70) and rushing yards (110) in the preseason and proved too good to cut. He grew up roughly eight miles from FedEx Field in Glenn Dale, Md., as a lifelong fan of the team.

“We had some guys here: Ricky Ervins, who I played with, a former teammate of mine, and Jamie Morris, a former teammate of mine,” Mayhew said. “Both those guys were built low to the ground, hard to tackle, and both of them had really great vision, acceleration. That’s what Jaret has, too. … He’s going to be fun to watch this year; hopefully he continues to grow and develop as a player.”

Reyes and Patterson provide depth and potential, but the most significant change to Washington’s offense is in its group of wide receivers. Last year the team lacked a clear No. 2 behind Terry McLaurin and kept only five wideouts on its initial roster. But now receiver is one of the team’s deepest positions, complete with speed and diversity in playing style. Joining McLaurin are Curtis Samuel, rookie Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, Cam Sims and a pair of slot receivers who can double as returners in rookie Dax Milne and DeAndre Carter.

Rivera had said he would “love” to keep as many as 10 offensive linemen for depth and injury insurance over a 17-game season, but Washington ultimately kept nine, perhaps knowing that it can keep a handful of linemen on the practice squad and elevate them for games when needed. Many of those cut Tuesday could be re-signed to the practice squad Wednesday.

Washington faced particularly difficult decisions in the secondary. The team added three cornerbacks — signing William Jackson III and Darryl Roberts and drafting rookie Benjamin St-Juste — then watched another blossom in camp. Torry McTyer, a well-traveled fourth-year player, made big play after big play to warrant a roster spot.

“He really showed, and we thought that was one of the things we really looked at because that was a tough position for us,” Rivera said. “ … They were all very tough. We felt like we had some really good battles all the way to the very end.”

Rounding out the cornerbacks room is Troy Apke, a former safety Rivera regards as “one of the best special teams players in the league.” Apke was demoted twice at safety last season, but he seemed to find his comfort zone at corner — enough so that Washington kept him and parted with Moreland, who started 10 games over the past two seasons. (Moreland suffered a minor injury in the preseason finale against Baltimore, according to Rivera, and was waived with an injury designation.)

“People have to game-plan for [Apke] as a gunner, as a kickoff coverage guy, because of his speed. He’s a good ‘vice’ guy [who helps block the gunner] on the punt-return team, and on kickoff return, he plays on the front line," Rivera said. " … If we’re going to be good as a football team, we have to be good on special teams as well.”

Rivera and his coaches have stressed positional flexibility, in addition to speed, and their first 53-man iteration is proof. Washington has defensive backs who can move around and offensive linemen who can play multiple spots. It has more than a handful of players with top-end speed.

But the roster could still change over the next couple of weeks, before Washington hosts the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 12 in the season opener. The team retained only four linebackers, and Rivera insinuated there could be a change at the position over the next day or so.

After Tuesday’s deadline, teams have 24 hours to submit claims for waived players (those with fewer than four accrued seasons), and Washington is 13th on the claiming priority list. At 4 p.m. Wednesday, teams can begin to form their practice squads of up to 16 players, a group that could be vital to the team’s success.

But for now, Washington has its core.

“We think we can win with these players and develop these guys, and we can have these guys here for a long time," Mayhew said. "And that’s what the plan is: utilizing our draft to get younger, healthier and faster.”

Initial 53-man roster

Quarterbacks (3): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen

Running backs (3): Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Jaret Patterson

Offensive linemen (9): Charles Leno, Ereck Flowers, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Sam Cosmi, Wes Schweitzer, Cornelius Lucas, Saahdiq Charles, Tyler Larsen

Wide receivers (7): Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, Cam Sims, DeAndre Carter, Dax Milne

Tight ends (4): Logan Thomas, John Bates, Sammis Reyes, Ricky Seals-Jones

Defensive linemen (9): Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle, James Smith-Williams, Shaka Toney, Casey Toohill

Linebackers (4): Jamin Davis, Cole Holcomb, Jon Bostic, Khaleke Hudson

Cornerbacks (6): Kendall Fuller, William Jackson III, Benjamin St-Juste, Torry McTyer, Darryl Roberts, Troy Apke

Safeties (5): Landon Collins, Kam Curl, Bobby McCain, Deshazor Everett, Darrick Forrest

Specialists (3): Tress Way (P/H), Dustin Hopkins (K), Camaron Cheeseman (LS)

*Defensive end David Bada was placed on injured reserve as an international player.

Cuts

Waived

QB Steven Montez

WR Antonio Gandy-Golden

WR Isaiah Wright

WR Tony Brown

TE Caleb Wilson

G Wes Martin

OT David Steinmetz

C Jon Toth

C Keith Ismael

C Beau Benzschawel

DE William Bradley-King

DE Bunmi Rotimi

DT Daniel Wise

DT Gabe Wright

DT Devaroe Lawrence

LB Jordan Kunaszyk

CB Jimmy Moreland

CB Linden Stephens

CB Danny Johnson

S Jeremy Reaves

Released (vested veterans)

RB Peyton Barber

RB Jonathan Williams

OT David Sharpe

S Cole Luke

LB David Mayo

LB Jared Norris

LB Joe Walker

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