The Washington Redskins’ final preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens will be played on Thursday night. It may not be an important game for the starters, but the matchup will serve as the final chance for bubble players to show why they deserve a spot on the 53-man roster.
The roster must be trimmed down to those 53 players by Sept. 1, so there’s still time for things to change. That means that this is strictly a projection based off what we know in this moment, and is subject to change based on future developments.
For example, the season-ending injury to second-round pick Derrius Guice is a perfect illustration of how quickly things can take a turn. That situation, along with the ensuing injuries to Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine, forced the Redskins to look elsewhere for depth at the running back position.
In other words, it’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of the team. So, without further ado, here’s the latest 53-man roster projection following the Redskins’ third preseason game.
Quarterback (2): Alex Smith, Colt McCoy
Analysis: Kevin Hogan did everything he could to leave a lasting impression against the Broncos on Friday night. After struggling in the first two preseason games, the Stanford product completed 7-of-9 passes (77.8 percent) for 88 yards and two scores.
In the end, it’s not going to be enough to help him make the team. The Redskins can’t afford to spend a roster spot on a third quarterback. In fact, the only possibility of Hogan making the team is going to come down to the severity of McCoy’s thumb injury.
Smith didn’t play his best game against Denver (3-for-8, 33 yards), but he should bring stability to the position after losing Kirk Cousins in free agency.
Running Back (4): Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine
Analysis: The signing of Peterson was somewhat unexpected. The coaching staff brought him in for a workout, and ultimately decided they had seen enough to sign him to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum ($1.015 million).
After seeing his performance against the Broncos, we can understand why.
Even at 33 years old, Peterson still displayed some of the same power, agility and vision that helped him lead the league in rushing as recently as 2015. He finished Friday night with 56 yards on 11 carries (5.1 yards per carry).
It wasn’t easy leaving Kapri Bibbs (173 yards on 21 touches) off the final roster, but Perine’s status as a former fourth-round draft pick was too much to overcome.
Wide Receiver (6): Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Trey Quinn, Cam Sims
Analysis: The top four receivers on this list are locks to make the roster. With the team wanting to keep six receivers, that means that there’s two available spots up for grabs.
Brian Quick, a former second-round pick by the Rams in 2012, is still a possibility. Undrafted rookie Simmie Cobbs Jr. is too. With that said, there’s too much intrigue with guys like Quinn and Sims to justify going with either of the aforementioned.
Sims is especially interesting. The 6-foot-5, 217-pound undrafted free agent out of Alabama has hauled in five catches for 131 yards in the preseason. What’s even more impressive is that he’s put up those numbers despite missing last week’s game due a hamstring injury.
There’s a chance this group could end up looking differently before final cut day, but a player like Cobbs Jr. seems like more of a candidate for the practice squad in Year 1.
Tight Ends (3): Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle
Analysis: If Reed (right) can stay healthy, this is going to be a fun group to watch. Davis is getting up there in age (34), but he can still be a productive complementary piece in the passing game.
Sprinkle, on the other hand, still needs to show development as the third tight end. He’s got the size (6-5, 252), strength and athleticism required to be an effective blocker, but this is now the second consecutive camp where he’s disappeared for an extended period.
Either way, his experience will give him the separation he needs to claim the spot over the two rookies, Matt Flanagan and Garrett Hudson.
One tight end to monitor in the fourth preseason game is J.P. Holtz. He was used as a lead blocker in certain packages last Friday, which significantly impacted Peterson’s success as a runner. Could they keep four tight ends in order to continue that strategy?
Offensive Line (9): Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian Sr., Tony Bergstrom, Tyler Catalina
Analysis: Could the team elect to keep only eight offensive linemen? It’s certainly possible, but it would make more sense for them to stick with nine.
Keep in mind, Catalina’s spot could be in jeopardy if the right opportunity presented itself following other cuts around the league. The former offensive lineman out of Georgia has had his moments, but overall, the depth on the interior of the offensive line has been a major issue during camp.
In other words, the five starters need to find a way to stay healthy.
Defensive Line (6): Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier II, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood
Analysis: Stacy McGee would’ve been a lock to make the roster had it not been for a groin injury causing him to start the year on the PUP list. As a result, Hood will be battling it out with Phil Taylor for the sixth and final spot.
The defensive line may be the deepest position on the roster. Washington has invested back-to-back first-round picks on former Alabama defenders (Allen and Payne) while also finding value with players like Ioannidis, Lanier II and Settle in the middle rounds.
Taylor got his first taste of preseason action against the Broncos, and he played well overall. It’ll be Hood’s ability to play multiple spots along the defensive front that gives him the edge, however.
Edge Rusher (5): Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Pernell McPhee, Ryan Anderson, Pete Robertson
Analysis: When doing roster projections, there are people who like to group the outside and inside linebackers together. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they will be separated for this exercise.
If the Redskins decide to only keep four edge rushers, Robertson would almost certainly be the odd man out. He’s played well enough, though, and keeping only four outside linebackers doesn’t seem likely.
The depth of this group should be improved for two reasons: 1) signing McPhee (31 career sacks) in free agency and 2) Anderson going into Year 2. That should allow the rotational duo to produce more than the three sacks that Junior Galette put up in 2017 while playing behind Kerrigan and Smith (22 combined sacks).
Linebacker (5): Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Zach Vigil
Analysis: Martrell Spaight is currently in a heated battle with Vigil for that last available spot as an off-ball linebacker. The reason we gave the nod to Vigil is simple: he’s the guy who was inserted into the starting lineup with Brown out against the Broncos. Yes, he seemed overwhelmed at times, but his spot in the lineup should, at the very least, indicate that he is the favorite to win that fifth spot.
It was great to see Harvey-Clemons back on the field too. If he can stay healthy, the former safety-turned-linebacker should see playing time on passing downs in the nickel package.
Hamilton, another former Alabama standout, is another guy to keep an eye on. It’s possible the Redskins could try to stash him by placing him on IR, but it’s gotten to a point where he may have been too good to leave off the roster (his 19 tackles in the preseason leads the team).
Cornerback (6): Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Adonis Alexander, Danny Johnson, Greg Stroman
Analysis: The release of Orlando Scandrick may have surprised some, but that decision will go a long way in helping the team stash some young, ascending talent at cornerback.
Dunbar is showing more consistency playing opposite Norman. Moreau, despite some recent struggles in coverage, seems to be settling in as the nickel corner.
Alexander has missed some time with a hamstring injury, but the coaching staff absolutely loves his skill set. The supplemental draft pick brings a rare combination of length (6-3, 207) and athleticism to the position.
Reanthony Texada seems like a prime candidate for the practice squad after losing out to fellow rookies Johnson and Stroman, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see another team put in a claim for him. Johnson has been one of the more pleasant surprises in training camp and Stroman has return ability.
Safety (4): D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke
Analysis: There’s still the possibility that Kenny Ladler could wind up on the final roster. His performance in the preseason warrants a spot, but the numbers won’t end up working in his favor.
Apke played poorly against the Broncos. But like Perine, his status as a mid-round pick gives him an automatic advantage. He’ll make the 53-man roster, but he needs to prove that he can be an effective player on special teams if he wants to be active on game day.
Fish Smithson is another guy who could find his way onto the practice squad.
Special Teams (3): Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, Nick Sundberg
Analysis: This is an area that doesn’t need much discussion. All three players are locked into their starting positions.
It should be noted that Hopkins is 7-for-7 on field goal attempts while Way has averaged an impressive 47.5 yards on 15 punts during the preseason.
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.
(Top photo by Garrett Campbell/Washington Redskins, courtesy of www.redskins.com)