Photo by Joe Glorioso for The Sports Capitol
Redskins training camp: 53-man roster projection 2.0
BY BEN STANDIG | AUGUST 5, 2018
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall declared his offseason work the “Summer of Separation.” Branding is fun. Such monikers work for NFL training camps. The Washington Redskins’ 2018 edition is nine practices old. That’s not enough time for much in the way of definitive in/out analysis, but some separation occurred.
Two more practice days are on the schedule before the preseason opener Thursday at New England. Most position battles will require another fortnight’s* worth of work. We cannot wait that long for a 53-man projection, so we won’t. Here’s a look at a potential Week 1 roster — the Week 1 mention is key as you’ll see — for the Redskins when they meet the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 9.
(*Yes, that’s how you spell fortnight, as in two weeks, as opposed to “Fortnite,” the video game some of you would play uninterrupted for two weeks in a row if social norms allowed. By the way, you do you. I had Ms. Pac Man and Tecmo Bowl addictions back in the day. Ask your parents or cool uncle/aunt if unfamiliar.)
Quarterback (2): Alex Smith, Colt McCoy
Others: Kevin Hogan
Notes: McCoy signing an extension at the start of training camp put Hogan on notice. Now the Redskins have a backup under contract for 2019. Unless the local kid shows out during camp and preseason to the point where he must be kept, he won’t because there is enough talent elsewhere. Keeping the extra running back or offensive lineman or defensive back trumps the third quarterback week-to-week especially if the third QB isn’t considered a real prospect. Hogan hasn’t looked sharp in Richmond. Unless he shines during the preseason, the local kid is in trouble.
Running backs (4): Chris Thompson, Derrius Guice, Robert Kelley, Byron Marshall
Others: Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs
Notes: There’s a battle between the running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs for the most exciting competition on the roster. This one is two-fold: Robert Kelley vs. Samaje Perine and whether the fourth RB must be a decisive special teams factor. The Kelley-Perine scenario tips toward Fat, err, Fit Rob, but only concerning making the team. Jay Gruden loves Kelley. He recently mocked a reporter for suggesting the Tulane product was on the roster bubble. However, Perine’s power arguably offers more tangible help in the rotation with the energetic Guice and shifty Thompson. Washington could keep both Kelley and Perine, but neither is a proven special teams help. Marshall could boost the return game. Perine would likely/ideally get traded if it came to that. Long way to go. My guy Brian McNally does not agree with my RB plan, FWIW.
Wide receivers (6): Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn
Others: Brian Quick, Cam Sims, Shay Fields, Simmie Cobbs
Notes: The top three offer fascinating potential — and are also wildly unproven collectively regarding their frontline roles. The real uncertainty lies with the remaining 2-3 spots. Is this the year Harris becomes part of the rotation? Based on his penchant for highlight grabs and versatility, yes. The Redskins like what they see in the 6-foot-3 Davis. It feels like exposing Quinn on waivers for a practice squad seems risky based on all the discussion around the slot target. He also was the final pick in the entire 2018 draft, so perhaps we shouldn’t overstate Quinn’s value league-wide.
Maybe the Redskins open with Quick, who is the only one of the reserves with any real NFL experience. Though he’s made some good catches in camp, Quick doesn’t offer much in the passing game and has only $90,000 guaranteed. For now, Sims, Fields and Cobbs don’t warrant serious Week 1 roster consideration, but good bet at least two of them hit the practice squad if not scooped up elsewhere.
Tight ends (3): Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle
Others: Matt Flanagan, Manasseh Garner, Elijah Wellman (Fullback), Garrett Hudson
Notes: Positive signs exist for Reed in his return from toe surgery on both feet. Until he strings together several true practices and game action, we’ll have to wait and see whether he’s close to that previous Pro Bowl form. Behind Reed and the 34-year-old Davis is the green Jeremy Sprinkle, who is the better blocking threat of three. The more protracted uncertainty with Reed exists, the more keeping a fourth tight end (or fullback) remains in play even if not very likely. Flanagan and Wellman also offer blocking help, but both should be easy practice squad stashes like Garner last year, if needed. None would be a viable fourth TE option Week 1. Again, if Reed is ready, there is no need.
Offensive line (9):
Tackle: Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian
Guard: Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao, Tyler Catalina
Center: Chase Roullier, Tony Bergstrom
Others: T.J. Clemmings, Kyle Kalis, Demetrius Rhaney
Notes: For those scoring at home, the team that suffered an insane amount of injuries along the offensive line last season is slowly working left tackle Trent Williams back, and practiced Sunday without right tackle Morgan Moses (ankle) and left guard Shawn Lauvao (ankle). Neither of those ankle issues is considered serious, and Williams told The Sports Capitol he can play a game now if needed. Not having the starting line available throughout training camp isn’t helpful for offensive cohesion.
Catalina and Kalis are likely battling for the third guard slot, which undoubtedly will exist considering Lauvao’s injury history unless coaches believe Nsekhe can shift inside. Don’t assume they think such things. Catalina made the roster last season over Kalis because of his versatility. That aspect becomes less critical with four tackles on the roster, but he did fill in for Lauvao with the starters Sunday.
Defensive line (6): Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Stacy McGee, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Tim Settle
Others: Phil Taylor, Ziggy Hood
Notes: Since these roster projections are for Week 1, let’s keep in mind a specific Week 1 dynamic. Veterans with at least four accrued NFL season have their salaries guaranteed if they are on the roster that first weekend. That’s why teams occasionally will waive this type of veteran with the intention of re-signing in Week 2. The Redskins pulled this maneuver in 2016 with Cullen Jenkins. Interesting to wonder if they consider going this route with Taylor or Hood in the hopes of keeping a player they fear might be claimed on waivers. One source shot down my plan with Hood, stating the Redskins wouldn’t risk losing him based on his leadership and locker room dynamics. The folks with Pro Football Focus probably offer a different spin.
Going with six DL regardless is a bit risky for a team often in four-lineman formations, but doable. Recovery status for Payne (ankle), who is out another 1-2 weeks, and McGee (groin surgery) may play into any Week 1 roster configuration. McGee would be the only lineman with more than two years of NFL experience in this setup.
Outside linebacker (4): Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee
Others: Pete Robertson, Alex McCalister
Notes: Another unit where the roster spots appear set for now unless injuries or there becomes a reason to keep a fifth OLB. We might have one based on how Gruden recently gushed over the aggressive “Petey” Robertson. Anderson’s improved fitness and mental approach show with his training camp performances.
Inside linebacker (5): Mason Foster, Zach Brown, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Zach Vigil, Shaun Dion Hamilton
Others: Martrell Spaight
Notes: We know Brown and Foster are starting. Harvey-Clemons worked with the starters this spring and summer whenever either of those two sat, but the lengthy linebacker remains best suited for specific packages rather than standard every-down work. Hamilton receives consistent praise for his smarts. The questions are about his health. The rookie told The Sports Capitol this week he feels 100 percent. Gruden told reporters Sunday the Alabama product is working toward that goal.
In time Hamilton may serve as the backup defensive signal caller. For now, Vigil’s workman-like skill set may boost him into the primary backup role over Spaight, who lost that new car smell entering his fourth season. If the Redskins believe Hamilton is ready for Week 1 work, the real battle could be with Vigil, Spaight and Robertson for the ninth linebacker.
Cornerback (7): Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Greg Stroman, Adonis Alexander, Danny Johnson
Others: Josh Holsey
Notes: The Redskins kept six corners last season. Seven seems extreme, but talent wins out. They spent late-round draft choices on Stroman and Alexander. They wisely scooped up the undrafted Johnson, who continues to shine in coverage during camp. Alexander offers massive size. Stroman and Johnson are returner options. We’ll see what the Redskins covet most. In the pass-happy NFL, keeping viable corners works. This projection reflects that with the acknowledgment that one of them could become a *stash* in some way in conjunction with that DL Week 2 plan.
The bigger picture involves whether Scandrick holds off Dunbar as the No. 2 outside corner. Hold, please.
Safety (4): D.J. Swearinger, Monte Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke
Others: Fish Smithson, Kenny Ladler, Quin Blanding
Notes: If it’s OK to think Perine, a 2017 fourth-round selection, might be on the outside in 2018 then imagining that Apke, the 2018 fourth rounder, could be in some trouble has merit, right? Eh, no. The biggest knock on the Redskins draft class stemmed from them taking a player many see as a special teams performer so early. Even if the naysayers are right, why would the Redskins give up on the Penn State speedster so quickly when he could help on teams right away?
Everett is another special teams performer. It’s conceivable Washington holds a fifth safety, though not with seven corners. Ladler, a Canadian Football League veteran, is generating positive buzz in camp with his run stopping and pass coverage work.
Special teams (3): Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, Nick Sundberg
Notes: Nothing to see here unless perhaps Hopkins wobbles during preseason games. His 81.3 field goal percentage over the last two seasons would have ranked 21st in 2017, and his kickoffs are just OK.
- (Quarterback TBD)
- Elijah Wellman, fullback
- Cam Sims, wide receiver
- Shay Fields, wide receiver
- Matt Flanagan, tight end
- Kyle Kalis, guard
- Timon Parris, tackle
- Ondre Pipkins, defensive line
- Pete Robertson, linebacker
- Fish Smithson, safety
Notes: Robertson and Kalis might power their way onto the 53. The receiver situation is so deep this projection doesn’t include Simmie Cobbs, who had the most pre-draft hype among the deep candidates. Parris is an interesting long-term molding project for Bill Callahan. Perhaps holding a fullback and a tight end is overkill especially with only three defensive players on the squad.
Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.