Photo by Reggie Hildred for The Sports Capitol

Redskins 53-man roster predictions: It's the final countdown

BY BEN STANDIG | AUG. 30, 2018

The 2018 preseason is mercifully over, which means the cutdown period is upon us. Between now and 4 p.m. Saturday, NFL teams must trim their 90-man rosters to 53. More tweaks happen from there as teams sift through all the newly available players for the main roster and practice squads. Predictions for the Washington Redskins 53-man roster and 10-man practice squad are right here.

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 McCoy’s thumb injury spooks the coaching staff for Week 1, Washington won’t keep a third quarterback. Keeping the extra running back or an offensive lineman or defensive back trumps the third quarterback week-to-week, especially if the third QB isn’t considered a real prospect. Hogan did some good work Thursday (22-for-38, 272 yards, three touchdowns), but also had two interceptions including a pick-6. He also didn’t look sharp in Richmond.

Running backs (5): Chris Thompson, Adrian Peterson, Kapri Bibbs, Robert Kelley, Samaje Perine

Others: Byron Marshall, De’Veon Smith

Notes: Slow down. Yes, slow down. Think this through before screaming about there being no way the Redskins keep five backs – and especially these five.

First off, we’ll assume Marshall, who I had pegged for a roster spot before the preseason opener, lands on IR after missing the last two games with ankle/knee injuries.

Next, as Thompson told me Wednesday at the team’s Welcome Home Luncheon, he and Peterson are the only two locks. Props to Thompson for the reality check and honesty since it was the correct assessment. The final 2-3 spots come down to what the coaching staff desires. Perine offers the most upside, but his fumbling woes continued Thursday. Kelley is the solid option as a runner, blocker and player. Don’t underestimate the importance of trust with the coaching staff. For a Thompson hedge/backup, the answer is Bibbs, who made plays from start to finish this summer.

My guess: Kelley and Bibbs stick if they go with four. However, an extra roster spot opened up this week (keep reading) or at least for cut-down day. The Redskins can hold Perine if he’s the odd man out and explore a trade over the next few days or longer before releasing the 2017 fourth-round pick. It’s also possible all five make it outright considering Thompson didn’t play at all this preseason while recovering from a fractured fibula – he’s fine  — and Peterson arrived just last week. The fumbling Perine put that option into greater doubt Thursday.

Wide receivers (6): Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Maurice Harris, Trey Quinn, Cam Sims

Others: Brian Quick, Simmie Cobbs, Shay Fields, Darvin Kidsy

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? Well, the answer for much of the summer looked like a clear yes. Then we had the last couple of weeks and a concussion suffered around the time training camp ended. Harris hasn’t played since. Jay Gruden continues to say it’s all good. We’ll see. If Harris is indeed all right, keeping two rookies becomes easier. If Harris is iffy for Week 1 and beyond, Washington may desire a veteran in the No. 4 role. That would be Quick, who also offers more on special teams. Quinn made plays all summer. Sims shined in the first two preseason games.

Tight ends (3): Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

Others: J.P. Holtz, Matt Flanagan, Garrett Hudson

Notes: Reed (toe surgery) never played in the preseason, but the talk is he’s all in for Week 1. Holtz received some late preseason buzz over the idea of sticking as a fullback because of Peterson’s strength running behind one.

Offensive line (8):

Tackle: Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian

Guard: Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao

Center: Chase Roullier, Tony Bergstrom

Others: Tyler Catalina (shoulder surgery), T.J. Clemmings, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams, Casey Dunn, Demetrius Rhaney

Notes: Here’s where the extra (temporary) roster spot for a running backs comes from. By Sept. 9, the Redskins will have a ninth lineman. Signs are pointing to an outside hire especially after Tyler Catalina underwent shoulder surgery this week, a source tells The Sports Capitol. Catalina provided depth across the line last season. He suffered an injury back in Richmond and never recovered.

While Kalis, Williams or Dunn could slip onto the roster, the Redskins may scan the waiver wire for a veteran guard considering Lauvao’s injury history and the lack of impressive backup options on hand. The team barely tried Nsekhe inside this summer so skip that notion. The ninth OL spot happens because one of the safe eight, Christian, isn’t ready for prime time. Regardless, Bergstrom would be the lone backup for three starters.

Defensive line (6): Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

Others: Stacy McGee (PUP), Phil Taylor, Ondre Pipkins

Notes: Going with six DL is a bit risky for a team often in four-linemen formations, but doable. McGee sits on the Week 1 roster, perhaps at the expense of Hood, if not for offseason groin surgery. He will open the year on the PUP list, meaning no games or practices for at least six weeks. Hood is the only lineman with more than two years of NFL experience entering the season. Props to Taylor for continuing the comeback, but it’s hard justifying keeping another backup nose tackle.

After years of draft neglect, the Redskins spent back-to-back first-round selections on linemen. The promise of Allen and Payne plus Ioannidis, Settle and Lanier is why this might be the roster’s best unit by midseason.

Outside linebacker (5): Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee, Pete Robertson

Others: Vontae Diggs, Dadi Nicolas

Gruden gushed over the aggressive “Petey” Robertson in Richmond. That version of the former UPS worker combined with Anderson for a sack in Baltimore. Smart teams don’t cut quarterbacks and pass rushers they believe have any kind of potential. I believe the Redskins think Robertson can play, so, he stays. Wild speculation here, but if you make me pick a surprise cut, I’d go with McPhee. Maybe this is the blame of the local media, but there was almost zero buzz about the free agent addition this summer. If the coaching staff buys into Anderson and Robertson as backups…

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.

In time Hamilton may serve as the backup defensive signal caller. For now, Vigil’s workman-like skill set boosts him into the primary backup role over Spaight, who has a role in this league but lost that new-car smell entering his fourth season. If the Redskins believe Hamilton is ready for Week 1 work (doubtful), the real battle could be with Vigil, Spaight and Robertson for the ninth linebacker.

Cornerback (6): Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Greg Stroman, Adonis Alexander, Danny Johnson

Others: Josh Holsey (PUP), Ranthony Texada

Notes: The Redskins waived Orlando Scandrick on the final day of training camp. That meant going with four corners with a combined one year of NFL experience. At the time, that level of optimism brought smiles. With Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals on deck for Week 1 in 10 days, the notion of all those kids likely spooks the coaching staff. If Washington can find a way to stash Alexander, who played catch-up all summer after arriving late following the supplemental draft, that opens the possibility of picking up a veteran off waivers.

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? I’ve been saying no chance most of the summer, but he had some issues over the final games in the preseason. 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 (in theory) he could help on teams right away?

If the Redskins create an extra roster spot, adding a fifth safety once waivers begin is a plan worth considering.

Special teams (3): Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, Nick Sundberg

Notes: Nothing to see here, though Hopkins missed a field goal in Baltimore. His 81.3 field goal percentage over the last two seasons would have ranked 21st in 2017, and his kickoffs are just OK.

Practice squad

  1. (Quarterback TBD)
  2. De’Veon Smith, running back
  3. Shay Fields, wide receiver
  4. Matt Flanagan, tight end
  5. J.P. Holtz, fullback/tight end
  6. Casey Dunn, center
  7. Timon Parris, tackle
  8. Jerod Fernandez, linebacker
  9. Ranthony Texada, cornerback
  10. Quin Blanding, safety

Notes: Where is Simmie Cobbs? Guessing another team offers him a clearer path to the 53 even if it means starting on the practice squad. Dunn and Parris, the latter of which is an interesting long-term molding project for OL coach Bill Callahan, over guards Kyle Kalis and Isaiah Williams on the assumption that the Redskins add a veteran guard before Week 1. Perhaps holding a fullback and a tight end is overkill especially with only three defensive players on the squad. Fernandez impressed throughout the preseason. Does Blanding beat out Fish Smithson and Kenny Ladler for the PS slot? Um, sure, why not.

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.

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