The Washington Times - August 22, 2012, 06:54PM

Coach Mike Shanahan today clarified for us reporters an important point about assembling the final 53-man roster: He has no set offense/defense/specialists formula for getting to 53 players.

In his first two seasons with the Redskins, Shanahan kept 25 offensive players, 25 defenders and three specialists. (If you count Brandon Banks last year as a specialist instead of a receiver, the breakdown is 24-25-4.) But he said Wednesday that keeping 25 defenders each of the last two seasons was just a coincidence.

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That Shanahan is not locked in to a 25-25-3 structure means the Redskins could keep 26 on offense to help ease the strain of the injuries at running back and/or on the offensive line. Assuming the “best 53” (as Shanahan likes to say) doesn’t include a ninth offensive lineman, he could keep running back Alfred Morris AND tight ends Chris Cooley and Logan Paulsen AND a sixth wide receiver.

Of course, if Shanahan keeps 26 offensive players, then he’d keep only 24 on defense. So when analyzing the roster decision-making process, we have to consider the merits of keeping someone like Cooley against, say, safety DeJon Gomes or a linebacker such as Bryan Kehl, who can contribute on special teams.

The flexibility makes speculating about the 53 difficult. There are so many pieces to the puzzle. Overall, though, Shanahan must cut some players who are good enough to play somewhere in the league. That’s a sign of improvement.

“The better football team you are, at the end, a lot of times guys will be picked up [by another team],” Shanahan said. “If you don’t have guys being picked up, that’s not a good sign. At the end of the day, if you have two, three, four, five guys getting picked up, that means you probably have a lot of depth.”