There is about 3 and a half months until the Redskins must make a decision on all of their necessary cuts, but with the most recent releases, it’s not unreasonable to have a feel for who the Redskins will break camp with on their week one roster. Not wanting go into this post completely blind (or at least no more blind than a normal post), I did some research to see how frequently a Mike Shanahan draft choice fails to make the team (0 games played for the Broncos).
Shanahan picks tend to miss the roster at a rate of about one guy per year. Most recently, the Broncos took a defensive tackle by name of Carlton Powell in 2008, who never played for them. The most successful player to miss a Mike Shanahan roster in the last five years after being drafted is current Giants WR Domenik Hixon. This says nothing about the quality of players drafted, rather, that we’re likely to see most every player in this draft class make the roster, and if one misses, it’s likely to be either OL Erik Cook, or TE/FB Dennis Morris.
As of today, my money is on the following 53 guys, with comments interjected after each position.
Quarterbacks (2): Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman
I can’t help but notice that a McNabb/Grossman QB roster doesn’t really look all that great on paper, despite the fact that the Redskins have upgraded their starting quarterback, and their backup quarterback from last year. I think this says more about me overrating a Jason Campbell/Todd Collins combination the last two years that was significantly weaker than any of the quarterback groups under Joe Gibbs from 2004-07. Since Mark Brunell’s contract expired after the 2007 season, the Redskins have always been reliant on Todd Collins to come through as a backup, and Grossman is an upgrade in that sense. I still wouldn’t feel comfortable about Sexy Rexy having to start a game this year, but that’s a likely reality.
Colt Brennan has a really obvious inside track to the third quarterback spot, as he has no real competition, but right now keeping only two passers seems like the prefered option for Mike Shanahan, since he’s been doing it since 2005, with Jake Plummer and Bradlee Van Pelt.
Running Backs (3): Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Willie Parker
The thing to take away here is not about who is making the team, but who isn’t making it, which is to say, I don’t think there’s a good chance that any players under the age of 29 play RB for the Redskins next year. There are, however, plenty of players that the team will look at, and there is a spot on the roster for Ryan Torain or Keiland Williams if they can impress in camp, and it won’t come at the expense of any of the veterans, at least not with regards to Week 1. The prediction here is that Brian Westbrook will sign with the Denver Broncos.
Fullbacks (2): Mike Sellers, Dennis Morris
Mike Sellers’ hold on a roster spot is more tenuous than I think a lot of people realize, which is to say, if they need a roster spot, Colt Brennan is the first player to go, and Sellers will be the second. It’s probably not a good sign if they both make the roster, as that would imply that there just weren’t many players that impressed in camp enough to make the team, and without a steady diet of performance from the players who aren’t necessarily expected to compete, this team won’t be doing that much winning. Morris will make the roster unless he plays his way off of it.
Wide Receivers (5): Malcolm Kelly, Santana Moss, Devin Thomas, Bobby Wade, Terrence Austin
Not a great group here. Bobby Wade had a really good year in 2007 for the Vikings. The last two years, he’s been caught on some really bad offenses in Minnesota then Kansas City, which is nothing new to Wade, who was drafted by the Bears in 2003. I think Roydell Williams and Marques Hagans are going to get every opportunity to win the 4th WR spot, but ultimately, Wade has the best chance. I’m not at all sure how Joey Galloway factors into all of this, but I’m thinking: not well. Terrence Austin will be prominently featured on special teams, and could even catch a pass or two.
Tight Ends (3): Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Sean Ryan
This roster is developing a decisive veteran flavor. I’m just not seeing enough young talent to displace anyone here. Maybe the next group will change that.
Offensive Tackles (4): Trent Williams, Stephon Heyer, Selvish Capers, Artis Hicks
The reason that the first three seem almost certain to make it is because the team simply lacks offenisve tackles who have played the position in the NFL, or even in college, and therefore would be experienced having to play this year. I think that, seemingly, the plan right now is to put Stephon Heyer back at right tackle, which sort of puts the team in the same predicament it was last season with just one true left tackle on the roster, this time it’s Trent Williams instead of Chris Samuels. Capers, I think, will ultimately be a right tackle, but it wouldn’t shock me to see the Redskins play him as the second string left tackle for this whole season, especially if they ever want to develop Heyer. Hicks is listed here because he is very much in play to win the RT job, but he’s just a 31 year old Guard, at the end of the day.
Guards (4): Derrick Dockery, Mike Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Erik Cook
If one guy from the Redskins draft class in 2010 was going to miss the roster, I’d predict it would be Cook. Lictensteiger appeared in every game for Mike Shanahan in 2008, mostly on special teams (can’t let those FGs get blocked). He also has value at center, potentially, so I think he’s a safe bet to make it. When Hicks is taking 2nd team reps at RG and RT, there won’t be any reps for Chad Rinehart anyway, so I expect him to be released. This Redskins coaching staff isn’t going to waste time with Mike Williams playing tackle, that’s why they have Hicks after all. He’s a good bet to start at RG, but not good enough to feel comfortable there. I would not be surprised if the 2011 RG was someone else besides Big Mike.
Centers (2): Casey Rabach, Edwin Williams
There’s really no reason to expect them to keep two centers, but Shanahan(s) are bound to like the quicker, undersized version of Edwin Williams, adn find a spot for him somewhere as a developmental project. He’s still probably behind Lichtensteiger on the food chain of Centers on this team, and Rabach never seems to get hurt anyway, ensuring that the middle of the offensive line will feature a swinging gate pretty much all year.
I honestly do not expect the team to keep ten offensive lineman, as there’s simply no reason to keep more than nine, but I don’t have a prediction as to who the odd man out will be. (Mike) Williams or Rabach are probably the worst of the bunch, but they’re penciled in to start, so you tell me. All of this ignores the possibility that Rinehart has a great camp, and beats out someone, probably Cook.
Nose Tackles (3): Albert Haynesworth, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Howard Green
Without a doubt, given the health record of Kemoeatu, two players that know the NT position aren’t completely sufficient, so I’d expect Phillip Daniels to learn this position as well, given that Haynesworth will only be here on rushing downs, but in the game for 70% of all downs. Howard Green is the most accomplished option here as a guy who can trade inactivity with Kemoeatu as his injuries flare up and keep him out of the lineup.
Defensive Ends (4): Adam Carriker, Phillip Daniels, Kedric Golston, Greg Peterson
I can’t help but think there might be a move or a trade to add depth here. Jeremy Jarmon is probably good enough to play both end and linebacker in the 3-4, but he’s rehabing from an ACL. Peterson, who Bruce Allen drafted with Tampa, is nothing more than a back-end-of-roster lifer, who is probably nearing his expiration date.
I will throw out one name: Chris Hovan.
Outside Linebackers (5): Brian Orakpo, Andre Carter, Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson, Jeremy Jarmon
This might be the most talented position on the entire roster. A few of these guys are making transitions to stand-up linebacker, but they are all incredibly talented quarterback assulters. Jeremy Jarmon is the one who might have a roster spot in jeopardy, if only becaus of his injury, but ultimately, since these guys play both the role of linebackers and of defensive lineman in the nickel package, there’s really no reason to skip on the amount of them you put on the roster.
Inside Linebackers (4): London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, HB Blades, Perry Riley
Chris Draft strikes me as a depth signing in the event that the Redskins can agree to terms on a trade of McIntosh, he’ll be an easy cut if they cannot. Fletcher, and his future replacement, Riley, are locks to make the roster, and Blades should be pretty safe because he offers both more defensive value and more special teams value than Draft. So assuming that the Redskins aren’t opposed to the idea of having Rocky Mac contribute to the defense, he’ll be on the team if not traded, and Draft will be gone.
Cornerbacks (5): Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall, Phillip Buchanon, Kevin Barnes, Justin Tryon
This is another strong position for the Redskins. Rogers and Hall are the locks. Tryon is likely to have the nickel back position again, but it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing if he was released and the Redskins went forward with Buchanon and Barnes sharing that role. The Redskins also have Marcus McCauley, who started nine games as a rookie on the 2007 Vikings, and is quite good at run support. He’s an easy release of course, but gives the Redskins competition for Tryon, and an extra option at corner if they decide to do something quite creative that I will suggest next week.
Safeties (4): LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, Chris Horton, Reed Doughty
These were the same four safeties from 2009, and the same four safeties from 2008. My prediction, right now, is that they will remain a group in 2009. Two things about that: 1) Lendy Holmes is a pretty impressive player who could play himself onto the roster at the expense of Doughty. 2) Right now, Kareem Moore is getting the first team reps with LaRon Landry right now. I’m thinking that Moore won’t be a 16 or even a 10 game starter with this team. This sets the stage for, perhaps, a more high profile player to play safety along side Landry, leaving Moore and Horton as the primary backups.
I am not talking about OJ Atogwe, for the record.
Long Snapper (1): Nick Sundberg
I know nothing about Nick Sundberg, only that he’s on the roster, and the Redskins have not bothered to tender Ethan Albright a contract.
Kicker (1): Graham Gano
Justin Medlock is a lot older than Gano, and does not have the sort of leg strength that the Florida State product brings to punching kickoffs deep into the endzone. Neither has much of a track record as a field goal kicker at the professional level, but both were touted college kickers, maybe Medlock moreso than Gano.
Punter (1): Josh Bidwell
Bidwell, when healthy, represents an upgrade on Hunter Smith. He, unfortunately, is not a threat to throw or run for a touchdown this year.