Washington has decisions to make.
With the league’s deadline this Saturday, Washington and the rest of the NFL’s 32 teams have to trim rosters from 80 players to 53. Coach Ron Rivera said recently that, after making evaluations over the weekend, he and his staff know who the team’s top players are. But when it comes to the final cuts, there are a few spots up for grabs.
“There’s still a few guys we have to make our minds on,” Rivera said.
As the deadline looms, here’s one reporter’s final 53-man projection.
Quarterbacks (3): Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith
The big question for this position is if Smith will be placed on injured reserve when the season begins. It’s possible Smith, whose reps are still very limited as he recovers from a broken leg, makes the initial active 53-man roster, only to be placed on the list once the roster deadline passes. If that happens, Washington could bring Smith off IR if need be after a minimum of three games. (The NFL altered its IR rules just for this year, allowing players to come back from the list after three weeks instead of the standard eight.)
Running backs (5): Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gibson, J.D.McKissic, Bryce Love, Peyton Barber
Without preseason games, it can be hard to grasp which players are on the outs. Washington rotated its backs throughout training camp, with Peterson, Gibson and McKissic leading the way. Rivera has shown a willingness to keep five backs in the past with Carolina, so the gut instinct is all five make it.
Wide receivers (5): Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Dontrelle Inman, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Cam Sims
Rivera said over the weekend coaches are still undecided about some crowded positions. Wide receiver, for instance. How many can Washington keep? Five? Six? Sims has had a number of dazzling catches and can contribute on special teams. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins even vouched for him on Monday. That leaves Trey Quinn and Isaiah Wright on the outside.
Tight end (3): Logan Thomas, Marcus Baugh, Jeremy Sprinkle
Thomas and Baugh have emerged as the team’s clear top two tight ends. The third spot should belong to Sprinkle, who can block and has done yeoman’s work on special teams. Rivera said Monday that Sprinkle was a “core part to what we do as a football team.”
Offensive linemen (9): Geron Christian, Wes Martin, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Keith Ismael, Saahdiq Charles, Wes Schweitzer, Cornelius Lucas
If Charles isn’t healthy for Week 1, that leaves Washington with only three healthy tackles — not an ideal situation. Maybe this is a position Washington uses the waiver wire to address lack of depth. But for now, nine linemen feels right. Ross Piersbacher, a 2019 fifth-rounder, and Joshua Garnett would be among the notable cuts.
Defensive line (8): Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle, Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Anderson
James Smith-Williams and Jordan Brailford — two seventh-rounders in back-to-back drafts — have had strong camps, but Washington should be able to stash them on its practice squad. This is easily the team’s most-loaded position on the roster and there are some good players that won’t make it.
Linebacker (7): Kevin Pierre-Louis, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Thomas Davis, Jon Bostic, Cole Holcomb, Reuben Foster, Khaleke Hudson
Rivera said Washington will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to who starts. Pierre-Louis and Bostic were with the first-team in Monday’s practice, with Davis rotating in before coaches pulled him for precautionary reasons with an apparent injury. But the overall position looks set.
Defensive backs (10): Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, Jimmy Moreland, Fabian Moreau, Greg Stroman, Landon Collins, Troy Apke, Deshazor Everett, Sean Davis, Kamren Curl
Perhaps the biggest surprise of training camp has been how well the secondary has played. Darby and Fuller, two free-agent signings, have been steady at cornerback, and Moreland looks poised to take another step in Year 2. Rivera has praised Apke’s growth and the 25-year-old looks like he’ll start opposite Collins. Of the 10 defensive backs, five are corners while the other five are safeties. Safety Jeremy Reaves was a tough omission here, as well.
Specialists (3): Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, Nick Sundberg
The more things changed for Washington this offseason — new coach, new name, new controversies — the more some things stayed the same.