The Washington Redskins have had a very bumpy preseason. The powerful offense from a year ago has been very underwhelming, while the atrocious defense has shown some signs of promise. I may be getting ahead of myself with those two statements as it is only the preseason, but it’s something to keep in mind. With that being said, here’s my breakdown of the Redskins’ roster as we head into the 2017 regular season.
QB: After losing his top two targets from a year before in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, Kirk Cousins has struggled mightily this preseason. He’s been very inconsistent and hesitant in the pocket which has led to problems. This isn’t terribly alarming because it is only the preseason and he has been without his entire arsenal of weapons (Reed, Crowder, and Doctson have battled injuries) but it is something to keep an eye on. Backups Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld haven’t looked great either and only add to the concern at the position. If I had to guess, I think all three players make the roster although I really don’t see the point in keeping Sudfeld around much longer when it is pretty clear he’ll never be the answer at the position.
RB: On a more promising the note, the Redskins running back group appears to be very solid this season. Robert “Fat Rob” Kelley has cut weight this offseason in preparation for a much larger role in the offense. He has looked pretty solid as usual when the blocking has been there for him throughout the preseason. Chris Thompson has looked great as always too and has established himself as the most versatile and skilled running back on the roster. Expect a heavy dosage of him on passing downs mixed in with some touches here and there. 4th round rookie Samaje Perine has also looked solid this preseason after a rough first game against the Ravens. He will have a role in this offense likely as a short yardage/goal-line back. At the bottom of the depth chart Mack Brown and Matt Jones are battling it out for the fourth RB spot. It’s likely that Brown gets the edge as he is more versatile and explosive than Jones and offers more in terms of special teams than Jones does.
WR: The receiving group is very different from last year’s group. After losing two 1,000 yard receivers in Garcon and Jackson, the team is looking at Terrelle Pryor to step into a big role. He has looked a bit inconsistent this preseason but with his work ethic and skill level I’m sure that he will thrive in this offense. The most consistent player in this group is probably Jamison Crowder, who, despite being sidelined some of this offseason, looks to build on a very good season before. Expect both of those guys to be big contributors. The biggest question mark in this group is definitely 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson. After missing all of last season with an Achilles injury, he has missed most of the offseason with multiple other injuries. He is beginning to be a player that can’t really be relied on, but hopefully he can stay healthy and be a good option in this offense this year. To round out the depth at receiver are returning players in Ryan Grant and Maurice Harris who are solid contributors on special teams. Harris also has the ability to step in and be a viable option at receiver on game day. The last spot that is up for grabs likely comes down to Robert Davis or veteran Brian Quick. Up until this last preseason game, I would have assumed that Davis was likely to make the roster based off his usage on special teams especially as a punt coverage gunner. Davis didn’t play in this last preseason game which makes me think that he may be stashed on the practice squad. So I either think Quick will be kept as the 6th WR or the team may elect to go into the season with just five guys at the position.
TE: The tight end group looks to be one of the deepest positions on this team. Jordan Reed is on the verge of being a superstar in this league if he can only stay healthy. Two other roster locks at the position are Vernon Davis and Niles Paul. Davis is one of the leagues best backup tight ends and is excellent as a pass catcher who offers big play ability after the catch. Paul is an excellent depth tight end who is extremely versatile on offense and special teams. The last spot that is up for grabs, if the team decides to keep more than three tight ends, is between rookie 5th round pick Jeremy Sprinkle and Derek Carrier. Sprinkle is the more likely option of the two to make it because he offers more in terms of blocking, but Carrier will give him a run for his money. Carrier is an excellent receiver for a tight end and could be a valuable asset in the passing game. It ultimately comes down to what the coaches value more, a better blocker or a better pass catcher.
OL: The offensive line has been shaky at best this preseason. That factored in with Spencer Long’s injury and there is some reason to worry about this offense going into the season. Still, this offensive line does feature All Pro left tackle Trent Williams and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff. Combine that with a solid RT in Morgan Moses and the line should be fine despite the premature concerns. The one weak spot on the offensive line would still have to be Shawn Lauvao. He isn’t great but is still a solid run blocker who finishes blocks very well. There are also some other guys in this group who should provide good depth as well. Swing tackle Ty Nsekhe is perhaps the best depth tackle in the NFL and was excellent as a spot starter last season. Rookie 6th round pick Chase Roullier should also be a roster lock as he has played very well filling in for Long during his injury. I don’t really see another roster lock in the group but it wouldn’t surprise me if either Kyle Kalis or Tyler Catalina sneaks onto this roster as the 8th offensive lineman.
DL: The defensive line has added a lot of talent this offseason and as a result the group has looked much improved during the preseason. The biggest loss to perhaps this entire team though was NT Phil Taylor who has been ruled out for the entire season after injuring his quad against the Bengals. This is a huge loss because Taylor looked to finally be the answer at the NT position. Nonetheless, the defensive line has still showed positive signs of improvement. First round pick Jonathan Allen has looked very promising so far to say the least. Second year players Anthony Lanier and Matt Ioannidis have also looked great and are expected to have expanded roles in their sophomore campaigns. Big free agent signings Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee should also make the roster and provide solid depth as well. The last couple of roster spots should come down to depth guys Joey Mbu, A.J. Francis, and Ziggy Hood. The nod will probably go to Ziggy Hood since he has experience with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, but with the injury to Phil Taylor it wouldn’t surprise me to see Joey Mbu sneak onto the roster.
OLB: The outside linebackers should be solid once again this year. Ryan Kerrigan has been one of the best pass rushers in the NFL since he was drafted in 2011 and I expect big things out of him this season. Preston Smith should get the start across from Kerrigan and he looks to bounce back from a mediocre season last year. Rookie 2nd round pick Ryan Anderson should get plenty of playing time this year as well. He is an excellent run defender and should help improve that area of weakness from the year before. The most anticipated return of anyone to this team is Junior Galette. Galette has missed the last two seasons with Achilles injuries so Redskins fans and coaches have been waiting for his debut for a while. Expect Galette to have a big impact on passing downs this season. The last player I expect to make the roster as an outside linebacker is preseason standout Chris Carter. He has been excellent on the edge and has definitely caught the coaches eye. Combine that with his ability to play special teams and he should be a lock to make the roster.
ILB: What was once a position of weakness, the inside linebacker position is actually looking pretty solid heading into the season. All Pro Zach Brown was signed in the offseason and should be the starter going into the year after a solid preseason. He should add some speed and playmaking ability to a group that really needed an infusion of those two traits. Starting beside him should be Mason Foster, who, according to Pro Football Focus, was the 8th best inside linebacker in the NFL last season. He should provide great run defense and be a solid contributor in the pass game as well. Will Compton should also make this roster and should be a solid spot starter and special teams player. Another surefire roster lock, in my opinion, is Martrell Spaight who is one of my favorite players on the roster. He is a very fiery, vocal leader who has been outstanding this preseason. Barring injury, I think he may end up starting at some point this year beside Zach Brown. If any other player makes this roster for the position, it should come down to either Nico Marley or Josh Harvey-Clemons. Clemons would be the likely option, considering he fits that money backer role that Su’a Cravens played last season. Marley could be an interesting option to make the team given his big play this preseason but the practice squad seems more likely, given his size.
CB: Of all the positions on the defense, the depth at corner seems to be the most set in stone. Josh Norman is the top player here and is expected to follow more top receivers this year. I don’t know how well he’ll do in that role, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out this season. Opposite him should be Bashaud Breeland who has had a very up and down career. After underperforming most of last season, Breeland played very well in the last few games. That strong play appears to have carried over to the preseason as he looked very good against the Bengals a few days ago. Starting in the slot should be sophomore corner Kendall Fuller. Fuller was average last year in that role so hopefully he improves with that rookie year experience. Rounding out the depth at cornerback is Quinton Dunbar and rookie third rounder Fabian Moreau. Dunbar is a steady contributor on the outside who should get some quality playing time throughout the season. Moreau will make an early impact as a punt gunner on special teams but expect him to continually get more reps on defense as the year goes on. He is a first round talent who should make a lot of plays for the Redskins secondary this year. The 6th and final cornerback to make the roster should be 7th round pick Joshua Holsey. Holsey has looked very good in the slot this offseason and the team loves his competitiveness and aggressiveness in that spot.
S: Another year, new safeties for the Redskins. It seems to be a continuing trend with this franchise that this team cannot find an answer at either safety position. Newcomer D.J. Swearinger and last year’s money backer Su’a Cravens hopefully look to be the solution this year. Swearinger, who has been a strong safety for most of his career, is the starting free safety and has become an early leader on this defense. Cravens, when healthy is a good playmaker and should fit nicely as a strong safety. For depth, veterans Will Blackmon and DeAngelo Hall could potentially make the roster, although both are well past their prime. Special team standout from last year DeShazor Everett should be a nice special teamer and prime backup for both Swearinger and Cravens. Rookies Montae Nicholson and Fish Smithson could also push for roster spots after strong preseason play as well so it’ll be interesting to see if the coaches value youth and better play or veteran leadership.