- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 3, 2005

Nehemiah Broughton and Kevin Dyson, Andy Groom and Ron Warner — they all will have their cell phones on today, waiting for good or bad news from the Washington Redskins’ coaching staff.

By 6 p.m., the Redskins must trim their roster to 53, meaning 18 players must be released. Broughton, Dyson, Groom and Warner are among those who spent last night on the bubble.

Coach Joe Gibbs emerged from a staff meeting to say the coaches will convene again this morning to make final decisions.

“It’s one of the biggest struggles you have as a coach,” he said. “You watch guys labor, work, fight and go through all they do, and we know how important it is to them and us, and that’s why we spend a lot of time in meetings.”

Among the tough decisions, five stick out:

• Who’s the punter: Andy Groom or Chris Mohr?

Mohr has the experience (16 seasons in the NFL), and Groom has the Big Bertha-like leg (43-yard average during the preseason). But if the Redskins had total confidence in Groom, they wouldn’t have signed Mohr when Tom Tupa’s season was ended Tuesday by a back injury. Mohr averaged 34 yards on six punts against Baltimore in Friday night’s 26-20 preseason loss.

“Our game plan was to punt Chris a good portion of the game because he had not had a lot of work,” said Gibbs, who said the final decision rests with special teams coach Danny Smith. “I think Danny has a tentative plan there.”

Experience is doubly important to Gibbs when it comes to special teams.

“That’s the reason you have a lot of them [punting] for 16, 17 years,” he said. “Once they get experience, everybody is kind of reluctant [to go with a young player].”

• Will Rock Cartwright or Broughton be the Redskins’ No. 3 running back behind Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts?

This has been the most interesting competition of training camp. Cartwright led the Redskins in rushing (35 attempts, 136 yards) and was second in receptions (eight). Broughton, a rookie seventh-round draft pick, was second in rushing (36, 113) and scored two touchdowns.

The deciding factor might be Broughton’s bulldozer running and blocking style in goal-line situations. But Cartwright plays special teams, so it’s possible both could make the final roster.

Broughton’s action against the Ravens was limited after he rolled his ankle. Cartwright carried 17 times for 54 yards.

“In this game, you never know,” Broughton said. “I showed some things the first couple of games. I’m sure the coaches know what I can do.”

• Does Dyson make the team as the No. 5 receiver behind Santana Moss, David Patten, James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs?

Dyson doesn’t play special teams, which doesn’t help his cause, but his status as a veteran (59 games, 178 catches) does. He proved during the preseason he is healthy after missing all but one game the last two seasons because of injury.

“I’m not getting too confident even though I made a couple of plays,” he said. “I feel like I did enough to be on this team.”

• What is receiver/return man Antonio Brown’s status?

Brown dropped four passes against Baltimore and has been mediocre on returns, averaging 5.7 a punt return and 17.1 on kickoffs. The last time he was a team’s regular punt returner, he averaged 4.4 yards with Buffalo in 2003.

“I’ve done everything that was asked [on punt returns] — make the catch and make our average starting point the 30-yard line. I think I did a pretty good job,” Brown said. “On the special teams, it’s the little details, and if you do that, then the big things will happen. …

“It’s still not over. They have until [today] to decide what they’re going to do. You look at the film and take the best criticism you can get from the best coaching staff in America.”

Said Gibbs: “I’ve been bragging about Antonio all camp, and I know he got upset, and we all did that he dropped some stuff on offense. But he’s been sure-handed on [special] teams, and we sure like him.”

• Along the defensive line, who survives among the group of Warner, Cedric Killings, Aki Jones and Nic Clemons?

The top seven lineman are probably set, and if the Redskins keep nine, that likely leaves room for one more one tackle and one end. Warner fell to third team in the preseason but proved a valuable reserve and occasional starter in 2004.

With the starters playing less than a quarter Thursday, Gibbs said he was impressed with the way bubble-type players performed.

“We had our first turn through [the evaluations], and we have some tough choices to make,” he said. “We had some guys step up [Thursday], and we had a lot of our front-line guys out early and quite a few of the other guys stood up, and that makes it tough.”

Staff writer David Elfin contributed to this article.

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