- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 6, 2009

Encouraged by the improvement of returning players and potential impact of 12 newcomers, Washington Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato declared the team’s final 53-man roster as better equipped for the 16-game grind than the group that limped to the finish last year.

“I think the offensive line and defensive line [are improved], we’re deeper in the secondary, we’re deeper at running back and Jason [Campbell] is a lot better than he was last year,” Cerrato said Saturday evening at Redskin Park after the roster was completed.

Eight days before the season opener at the New York Giants, the Redskins released 21 players and placed quarterback Colt Brennan on the season-ending injured reserve list with hip and hamstring injuries.

The Redskins joined New Orleans, New England and the Giants in keeping only two quarterbacks. That decision joined the inclusion of offensive linemen Edwin Williams and D’Anthony Batiste, linebacker Robert Henson and cornerback Byron Westbrook as the surprises.

As expected, Shaun Suisham won the kicking competition over Dave Rayner. Among the surprising cuts were veterans Jeremy Bridges (offensive tackle) and Robert Thomas (linebacker), two players signed during the offseason with the idea of providing experience.

“We had good discussions on quite a few things,” Cerrato said. “I wouldn’t say one [decision] was harder than the other.”

The Redskins will sign an eight-man practice squad Sunday. Cerrato said 10 players are under consideration but that the personnel department will scour the waiver wire for candidates. Quarterback Chase Daniel said he will sign once he clears waivers.

Among the dozen newcomers are four of the six 2009 draft picks, free-agent signings Albert Haynesworth (defensive tackle) and Derrick Dockery (left guard), and running back Marcus Mason, a waiver pickup. The only player cut who finished last year on the Redskins’ active roster was defensive end Rob Jackson.

The roster has 25 offensive and defensive players apiece and three specialists. Twenty-three players are age 25 or younger, and 16 players are 30 or older. Twenty-six Redskins draft picks made the team.

Brennan would have been on the roster but injured the labrum in his left hip against Baltimore and tore his left hamstring against Jacksonville. Brennan tore the labrum in his right hip as a senior at Hawaii and will visit the same surgeon for a diagnosis. He could need surgery.

“[Brennan] was going to miss some substantial time,” Cerrato said. “We’ll have two quarterbacks, and Antwaan Randle El can go in and finish a game as well as any third quarterback.”

Daniel impressed during the preseason with three touchdown passes and would not have been under consideration for the practice squad if it weren’t for Brennan’s injury.

“Basically, we put a 10th offensive lineman or Marcus Mason on for that extra quarterback,” Cerrato said. “You want to put your best 25 on the roster, and that’s what we felt like we did.”

On offense, Mason, Batiste and Edwin Williams had good camps to separate themselves from the competition. Mason got the nod over Anthony Alridge and Dominique Dorsey by rushing for 88 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run against New England’s starting defense.

“I think he deserved to be on the team,” Cerrato said. “I have confidence in him as a runner, period.”

What Mason’s emergence means for Ladell Betts’ role is unclear, but Betts served as a third-down back in the preseason.

Williams, an undrafted free agent from Maryland, impressed with his versatility at guard and center and was the revelation of camp along with receiver Marko Mitchell. Batiste, who beat out Bridges, joins Mike Williams at backup tackle.

“You like [Batiste’s] size (6-foot-4, 314) and his feet - he has excellent feet and he can handle a speed rush,” Cerrato said. “Anytime [Mike Williams] played, he showed power. You see a big, talented guy who can get movement off the ball.”

On defense, the Redskins kept nine defensive linemen, as expected, but opted for a sixth cornerback instead of a seventh linebacker. Henson didn’t impress early in the preseason but showed the coaches enough against Jacksonville to edge out Thomas and Cody Glenn.

The decision to keep Westbrook, who spent the past two years on the Redskins’ practice squad, was not due to concern about Carlos Rogers’ left calf injury, Cerrato said.

Westbrook clearly outplayed rookie third-round pick Kevin Barnes, so the Redskins might envision Westbrook as the No. 4 corner.

At kicker, Cerrato pointed to Suisham’s 48-yard field goal against Jacksonville and two overtime kicks in 2008.

“He’s won games for us in the past,” he said. “You feel comfortable with him going in.”

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