- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

TAMPA | Following the Washington Redskins‘ 20-13 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason finale on Wednesday night, second-year safety Deshazor Everett stood against the wall in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium and fielded questions from reporters.

The 24-year-old talked about his explosive play, both on defense and special teams, and how he felt his preseason had gone.

As one Redskins coach walked to the team bus, he stopped and observed the scene.

“Man, he played his [butt] off tonight,” the coach said. “That was fun to watch.”

Everett was among one of the strongest performers on the field on Wednesday. He played with high energy, closed in on the ball quickly and led the team with eight tackles. He played a whopping 67 defensive snaps, plus 23 more on special teams. Yet as cuts loom on Saturday for teams to finalize the 53-man rosters, Everett finds himself on the bubble. He switched from cornerback to safety in the offseason, and the Redskins have four in DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton, Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon that are expected to make the roster. It’s hard to justify keeping a fifth safety on the roster, especially when his biggest contribution is expected to be on special teams.

The biting reality is that by the NFL’s 4 p.m. deadline on Saturday, the Redskins will have to make difficult decisions, such as having to possibly cut solid players such as Everett that could contribute to this team to make the numbers work. The hope is that they can stash as many of them on the practice squad, but not all will have that eligibility.

While the decision-making projects to be challenging, it’s more indicative of the strong depth on the roster and the quality of the team general manager Scot McCloughan is building.

“There are a lot of guys that stated their case tonight,” coach Jay Gruden said after the win. “I’m happy to see. The harder these decisions are, the better your football team is. A lot of guys proved their worth as National Football League players throughout the course of the preseason, training camp and OTAs. It’s going to be hard on us, but we’ve got to do it. We have a lot of guys in this locker room we’re gonna let go that can play. Hopefully we figure out ways to get them back here.”

The Redskins began this process on Tuesday, when they had to make five cuts to trim the roster to the 75-man limit. Among them were veteran defenders Perry Riley Jr. and Stephen Paea. Riley was an essential component of the linebacker core over the last five seasons, starting 63 games and recording 448 tackles.

Last season, though, the 28-year-old the Redskins drafted in 2010 was inconsistent at times and was slowed by a broken bone in his right foot that caused him to miss the last six games. He needed a second surgery in the offseason and began training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He was unable to regain the starting job from Mason Foster, who was signed to a two-year deal in the offseason after playing well in Riley’s absence last year. Set to earn $5 million in 2016, Riley became expendable as a pricey backup. Terance Garvin, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason, was a more appealing option thanks to his strong special teams play and hard-nosed defensive effort.

Paea signed a four-year, $21 million contract last season but never performed to the expectations the Redskins had for the defensive lineman. He also ended the season on injured reserve with a toe sprain, but had already lost the starting left defensive end job to Chris Baker in Week 4. Paea was McCloughan’s first signing as a general manager and cutting the veteran showed a willingness to move on, even if it is an admission the signing didn’t work out.

“We feel like we’re going in the right direction,” veteran Kedric Golston said. “The culture we have around here are guys that love to play football and are selfless. [Paea and Riley] were that. But we all know going into this, that at the end of the [preseason] we have to be down to 53. That’s unfortunate. You lose the relationships you’ve built over the years. It’s just a tough situation.”

The Redskins front office will agonize over some decisions more than others as Saturday’s deadline approaches and projects to be more difficult than it has in years past. That’s a good problem to have.

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