The Redskins on Saturday night announced the transactions they made to reduce their roster to 53 by Saturday’s 6 p.m. deadline.
From those transactions, we can figure out the 53-man roster. But considering the team didn’t publicize the roster, there’s a decent chance it will change before Sunday’s regular-season opener.
Here are five thoughts on Saturday’s moves:
1. Coaches see and know a lot more than we do, so I hate to say any particular decision was a surprise. Heck, coaches might have known nose tackle Chris Neild was going to beat out Anthony Bryant all along, for all we know. But that’s the one I didn’t expect.
It’s clear now that, for some reason, Bryant never provided what Redskins coaches wanted. He anchored better than Ma’ake Kemoeatu at the point of attack last season, yet coaches kept starting Kemoeatu, who wasn’t fully healthy. Many elements are weighed as part of those decisions, though, including work ethic, study habits and other off-the-field factors. I’ll be interested to hear defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s reasoning for keeping Neild over Bryant.
I thought Bryant was stronger and more explosive getting off the ball than Neild. Neild is a hard-working, high-motor player, though, and that’s essential for a 3-4 nose tackle. But he was pushed back by double teams and hasn’t proven to be much of a pass-rushing threat.
With only six defensive linemen on the roster, Neild will have a chance to validate the coaching staff’s decision to keep him. As the only backup nose tackle, he’s going to have to play right away.
2. Each of the seven receivers on the roster can make a convincing case to be there, but they’ll need to beef up the defensive line numbers at some point, and the receivers at the bottom of the depth chart are low-hanging fruit. (Brandon Banks’ ailing left knee precludes him from being a receiver for now, so I consider him a return specialist.)
Donté Stallworth, to borrow a phrase from Mike Shanahan, handled himself in a first-class manner since joining the team. He still can separate from defenders on shorter routes and run past them on longer ones, but Anthony Armstrong can do that better. Stallworth is an eight-year veteran, so he could help mentor some of the young receivers, but that could be sacrificed if they have to add defensive line depth.
One veteran said during the preseason that Niles Paul had outplayed Leonard Hankerson. I thought Paul would wind up on the practice squad, but it’s not difficult to see why they kept him on the active roster. He does a lot on special teams and is a capable run blocker. His hands are better than Hankerson’s, which I suppose isn’t saying much. He’s definitely worth developing. My guy John Keim over at the Washington Examiner covered James Thrash during Thrash’s Redskins tenure, and he sees some Thrash in Paul. I’ll buy it.
3. Eight of the Redskins’ 12 draft picks made it, which is a strong percentage. Nine might have made it if Jarvis Jenkins weren’t injured. I suppose if all 12 made it, you’d question the team’s depth. If only two or three made it, you’d question the quality of the selections.
I’ve already discussed Neild. Cornerback Brandyn Thompson made a strong push for a spot during preseason games. He has solid ball instincts and can turn and run with receivers. Outside linebacker Markus White might have locked his spot up with a very good game against Tampa Bay’s reserves on Thursday. He’s an explosive outside rusher who needs to diversify his pass-rushing arsenal and learn coverage responsibilities. Both players showed their potential this summer.
4. Tackle Willie Smith should be very proud of making the team as an undrafted free agent in a year with no offseason program. Mike Shanahan spoke last week about the need to project players’ ability more this season than in past years, and maybe this is one of those cases. Smith is lanky, which affects his knee bend and overall athleticism. He ran a 5.5-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which is a bit slower than Shanahan’s standard. But at 6-foot-5, he has a 34 1/2-inch reach. Coaches liked enough about him to target him as soon as undrafted free agents were eligible to be signed in July.
The Redskins let Artis Hicks go, completing his fall from the starting lineup at the end of last season. Hicks struggled with his pad level, and it carried over to this summer. I thought they might keep him just because he’s a veteran who has played both guard and tackle, but he wasn’t good enough. Washington tried to trade him, but other teams apparently agreed.
5. Kareem Moore’s injury leaves the Redskins thin at free safety. Rookie DeJon Gomes flashed around the line of scrimmage as a strong safety during the preseason, and he can cover in the slot. But Redskins coaches simplified his deep coverage responsibilities during training camp because he wasn’t picking it up quickly. My guess is that Reed Doughty is the backup at both strong and free safety right now. If LaRon Landry’s and Oshiomogho Atogwe’s hamstring injuries were to keep them out against New York, Kevin Barnes might have to play some safety. Remember he played there a bit last season, although not well enough to be considered more than an emergency option.
The Redskins’ 53-man roster:
QUARTERBACKS (2): John Beck, Rex Grossman
RUNNING BACKS (5): Tim Hightower, Ryan Torain, Roy Helu*, Darrel Young, Mike Sellers
WIDE RECEIVERS (7): Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, Leonard Hankerson*, Niles Paul*, Terrence Austin, Donté Stallworth
TIGHT ENDS (3): Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen
OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Jammal Brown, Erik Cook, Sean Locklear, Willie Smith
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Adam Carriker, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Kedric Golston, Darrion Scott, Chris Neild*
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4): London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Keyaron Fox, Perry Riley
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan*, Lorenzo Alexander, Rob Jackson, Markus White*
CORNERBACKS (5): DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Kevin Barnes, Byron Westbrook, Brandyn Thompson*
SAFETIES (4): LaRon Landry, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes*
SPECIALISTS (4): Brandon Banks, Graham Gano, Sav Rocca, Nick Sundberg
*Indicates 2011 draft pick
Physically-unable-to perform list: FS Kareem Moore (ineligible for the first six games)
Reserve/suspended list: CB Phillip Buchanon
Reserve/injured list: DE Jarvis Jenkins*
On Saturday, the Redskins cut the following players:
QB: Kellen Clemens, Matt Gutierrez
RB: Evan Royster*, Keiland Williams, Shaun Draughn
WR: Aldrick Robinson*, Isaac Anderson
OL: Artis Hicks, Maurice Hurt*, Selvish Capers, Clint Oldenburg, Donovan Raiola
LB: Horatio Blades, Thaddeus Gibson, Edgar Jones
CB: Reggie Jones
S: Chris Horton, Anderson Russell, Davonte Shannon
*Indicates 2011 draft pick