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Two snapshots of the Redskins roster

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What have the ‘Skins done to shore up the roster since the end of the ‘18 season, and what remains to be done?

Houston Texans v Washington Redskins Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I wanted to take two snapshots that look at where the Redskins were just after the team’s 2018 regular season ended, and where the team stands today, just prior to the 2019 draft.

I will present two depth charts below. Neither is fully complete. For example, I have left Alex Smith — a key player, but one with a highly uncertain future — off of both of them. I think there’s basically zero chance that Smith plays in ‘19, if, indeed, he ever plays again. In addition, I have made some judgement calls on players that would most probably fill in the 3rd, 4th or 5th string spots on the depth chart, including some and excluding others. Players I included may have some outside chance, in my opinion, of finding their way to the roster at some point in the season. Players I left off the charts seemed, in my opinion, to be no-hopers and camp bodies.

I have also been a bit... ‘artistic’, if you will, in identifying where holes exist in the roster. Wherever you see a yellow box, it means that I felt like a player was missing — not just a warm body, but a player with requisite skills to fill the position competently. My ‘yellow box’ decisions may be subject to some disagreement, especially with regard to my positioning of the boxes at ‘starter’ or ‘backup’.

Where were the Redskins at the start of February?

Here’s my interpretation of the Redskins’ previous expected 2019 depth chart based on the players who were under contract to return following the end of the 2018 regular season:

How has the off-season changed things?

I then updated the chart to reflect the signing of ten players whose names do not appear on the chart above, making some adjustments for those players, and other changes, such as the release of Stacy McGee & Zach Brown, and the reinstatement of Reuben Foster.

Players added this off-season are highlighted in blue:

  • QB – traded for Case Keenum
  • RB – re-signed Adrian Peterson
  • RB – tendered/re-signed Byron Marshall
  • WR – re-signed Brian Quick
  • LG (projected) – signed Ereck Flowers
  • GSalesi Uhatafe – signed from AAF
  • DE/edge – signed Andrew Ankrah from AAF
  • LB – signed DeMarcus Gates from AAF
  • CB – unretired & signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
  • S – signed Landon Collins

Here is the resulting depth chart, current to the time of writing. I have bolded the names of players that seem to me to be roster ‘locks’:

In any endeavor of this type, which involves dozens of players in two different time periods, I invariably make mistakes. Feel free to point them out; it will result in the firing of yet another proof reader.

What follows is my position-by-position commentary on what the Redskins have done with the roster since the end of the ‘18 regular season, where the roster stands roughly a week ahead of the draft, and what the team can reasonably hope to accomplish with its 9 draft picks (and a bit of salary cap space) to fill out the roster ahead of training camp.

Wide Receiver

The Redskins wide receiver group is made up of unproven and underperforming players. It is astonishing that any NFL front office could allow a position group to fall so far and so fast. It is almost a travesty. Paul Richardson is what he was when the Redskins signed him; an average to above average receiver with speed who can’t stay healthy. He’s the best of a bad group.

Josh Doctson has had 3 seasons to prove that he isn’t an NFL bust, but has failed to state his case. The only reasons to keep him on the roster are that his 2019 salary is fully guaranteed, so the team is paying him no matter what, and the Redskins honestly don’t have anyone better to replace him.

Trey Quinn went to the injured reserve list twice last season. It’s a bit scary to think that 2018’s Mr. Irrelevant, who couldn’t stay healthy for a full game last year, appears to be the starting slot receiver.

Conventional thinking has the Redskins drafting a wide receiver this month. I wouldn’t mind seeing the team follow the Bill Belichick method, and trade a draft pick to acquire some decent veteran receiving talent from another team. Whatever they do, the Redskins desperately need to add one or two talented wide receivers prior to the start of the ‘19 season.

Offensive Line

Children just being weaned from their mothers’ breasts are aware that the Redskins needed to fill the hole at left guard... because they always need to fill the hole at left guard. It is known.

This off-season’s early swing & miss attempt to plug the gaping hole was to sign Ereck Flowers — a badly overdrafted OT that failed with the Giants — with plans to move him to a position he’s never played and “coach him up”. To my eyes, this move has ‘disaster’ written all over it. I truly hope Flowers proves me wrong, but, to date, he hasn’t proven anyone wrong who has bet against him in his NFL career.

The ‘Skins still need to draft a guard, either to backup Flowers or beat him out for the starting job in training camp.

Geron Christian showed in his limited regular season playing time last year that he is, indeed, an unfinished project. One hopes that the off-season of training will have helped along his progress, and that in his 2nd year as an NFL lineman he will show a great deal of improvement. At least the signing of Flowers offers some depth at backup OT — another reason that the Redskins need depth at guard. Flowers could be used, for example, to fill in for an injury to Morgan Moses, with the backup guard having to step up and play in place of Flowers. The possibilities are varied, but almost all of them seem sub-optimal at this point.

The Redskins have 4 proven starters, but the OL depth got worse with the loss of Ty Nsekhe and others.

In the draft, the Redskins should be looking for high quality interior line help — a player who can backup Roullier at center and either beat out Flowers at LG, or act as backup for all three interior line positions. They should probably also use a 5th or 6th round pick on a developmental tackle — perhaps an FCS guy with good technique who needs a couple of years in the weight room to get ‘NFL strong’.

Tight End

I believe that the Redskins could probably get through the ‘19 season with the three guys listed on the depth chart. They also have Matt Flanagan, JP Holtz, and Manasseh Garner, so it’s not as if the cupboard is bare.

However, if the team has the chance to draft a talented tight end, they should. This is Vernon Davis’ final year under contract and he’s being paid $5m as a backup tight end. He won’t be back next year, and his salary cap hit provides 5 million good reasons to replace him. Even if Davis isn’t released this year, the team needs to be ready to replace him in 2020, and Jordan Reed’s contract and injury history make him look more and more like a temporary Redskin. The red-light alarms aren’t flashing at tight end yet, but the yellow warning light is on.

Quarterback

I think the trade for Case Keenum, on the terms negotiated and at the cost of the trade, was a very good deal for the Redskins. It means that, at a minimum, the Redskins can take the field with a competent quarterback under center on opening day.

Keenum may yet surprise people. He had a successful season with the Vikings in 2017, including some playoff wins. I am ready to be pleasantly surprised by his ‘19 performance.

In any event, the Redskins need to draft another quarterback. I don’t think it matters too much whether they draft one in the first, second or third round; they can use a top tier QB if he’s available to them, but they will need a backup-quality signal caller in 2020 as well. If they pick up the latter, then it just means kicking the can down the road a year, and figuring out the plan for a 2020 starting QB later. I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Case Keenum plays well enough in 2019 to return to the Redskins in 2020. The situation at QB may or may not be as dire as it seems.

Running back

The re-signing of Adrian Peterson on a reasonable contract was probably the best outcome for everyone involved. Peterson gets rewarded for the amazing job he did in ‘18, the Redskins get a season or two of veteran leadership and improved depth at the running back position, and the pressure is off of Derrius Guice to be ‘all in for Week One”; Redskins fans have seen that show before, and it didn’t end pretty last time.

I’m expecting AD to be the starter at the beginning of the season, and to get some carries in all 16 games, with Guice building up his snaps and touches in a controlled fashion, not needing to be rushed along. He has a long career ahead of him, and a few touches more or less in the first half of the 2019 season won’t matter much in the scheme of things.

I wasn’t surprised that Byron Marshall was tendered, though I am still dirty about the team choosing him over Kapri Bibbs last year, and I’m not confident he makes the opening day roster this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ‘Skins go with just Peterson, Guice and Chris Thompson to start the season.

The real mystery is Samaje Perine. I wrote a detailed article about Perine last month. My best guess is that the team will keep him through pre-season as insurance against injury to Peterson or Guice, and that he will be the featured starting running back in all four preseason games. If he does well enough in those games, the ‘Skins might be able to trade him for a ham sandwich to a team that has a late preseason injury; if not, I suspect we’ll see the end of the Samaje Perine era in DC at the end of preseason Game 4.

I don’t think the Redskins need to use a draft pick on RB this year.

Defensive Line

If the Wide Receiver corps is the worst unit on the Redskins roster, DL is almost certainly the strongest. Having spent back-to-back first-round draft picks on Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, and with the incredible development of Matt Ioannidis, the Redskins have one of the most talented, if underrated, DL units in the league.

If the Redskins see a defensive lineman as the clear Best Player Available in the first round on draft day, they should be trying to trade back, or else select the player with the idea that they can trade IoanMan before the season starts. They really don’t have any obvious need in this position group.

Outside Linebacker

Trying to fill holes with the draft is how teams reach for need and make mistakes. The Redskins need to find an outside linebacker in the draft, but they need to be ready to roll with Ryan Anderson, a second-round pick, former Crimson Tide player, in his third season with the Redskins if they don’t.

Opinions differ on whether Anderson can fill a starting role, but having him try may be preferable to passing on a truly talented player in the draft in order to put a rookie on the roster ahead of Anderson.

This is arguably one of the Redskins’ top four positional needs, but may be the costliest if the front office panics and reaches for a player early in the draft.

Although slightly undersized at a reported 244 pounds, I think that Andrew Ankrah, recently signed from the AAF, actually has a chance to make the Redskins roster — especially if they don’t draft a player at the position in the first three rounds. The former JMU player was on the defense of the league champion Orlando Apollos. In eight games with the Apollos, Ankrah was eighth on the team in tackles with 14. He was also third on the team in sacks with three. The Apollos were the best team in the AAF, winning seven of their eight games before things started to go wrong with the league.

Inside Linebacker

I have been steadfast in saying that I believed Mason Foster would be retained when Zach Brown was cut, and I believe that — absent the Redskins drafting an absolute stud linebacker this month — M Foster will still be in a Redskins uniform on opening day of the regular season.

Whether he will be a starter or a backup remains to be seen. I feel confident that the team will want to start Reuben Foster at one LB position, so the battle will be, I think, between M Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton, who looked okay late last season, but hasn’t yet proved himself as a starting NFL linebacker, and had a troubling college injury history to boot. The Redskins will move on from Mason Foster in 2020.

If the Redskins see an extremely talented linebacker on the board when their pick comes up in the draft, they would be fools not to select him, but they don’t have any glaring need at the linebacker position, and I don’t think they would have any real trouble starting 2019 with Foster, SDH, Foster and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

DeMarquis Gates, who was just signed from the AAF may surprise some fans when he gets on the field in preseason. He may end up as a practice squad player who could potentially be promoted to the roster in case of injury in 2019.

Cornerback

We’ll start with the caveat: IF Quinton Dunbar returns healthy from the nerve damage in his leg that troubled him most of last season, the cornerback group looks adequate. Dunbar and Josh Norman offer the team a competent-to-slightly-above-average set of starters. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Fabian Moreau offer a blend of experience and youth that should make sure the Redskins can cover in the slot and stay fresh at boundary corner. With Adonis Alexander, Greg Stroman, Joshua Holsey and Danny Johnson, the team has the kind of young, developing depth that comes from regular drafting at the position.

There are no obvious holes here, and no pressing need, but the Redskins should continue the trend of recent years and invest a Saturday draft pick into a developmental cornerback who can contribute in future years, most likely pushing Danny Johnson off of the 53-man roster.

Safety

I was ambivalent when the Redskins traded a 4th round pick to bring in HaHa Clinton-Dix mid-season last year. It wasn’t the idea of the move that bothered me, but the fact that Green Bay fans seemed so happy to see him go.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’d rather have not made the trade; I’d rather have the 4th round pick in hand for this draft.

No matter. What’s done is done.

The Redskins started last season with DJ Swearinger and Montae Nicholson, which meant, to me, at the time, that the safety position was under control for at least two seasons, and maybe longer.

I was wrong.

We all know what happened, so I won’t belabor it here, but by the time the 2018 season ended, the Redskins had no starting safeties on the active roster that could be counted on in 2019.

Washington made one of the biggest splash signings of free agency frenzy when they inked a 6-year deal with former NY Giant Landon Collins.

That fixed one problem at safety.

But there’s still a hole at the other starting position. With no real clear idea about Montae Nicholson’s status or his future with the team, it’s apparent that the Redskins need to acquire another talented safety.

Free agency isn’t off the table as an option; Tre Boston and Eric Berry remain unsigned, and could be good targets post-7 May, when veteran free agent signings no longer affect the compensatory pick formula. Jaheel Addae, formerly of the Chargers, offers another free agent option.

The Redskins currently have about $12.5m in cap space available for the ‘19 season. After reducing that number by around $7.5m to account for the drafted rookies and allow contingency for injuries, the team still has about $5m that they can spend on free agency. That would easily be enough to craft a serious offer for Boston or Berry, and more than enough for Addae.

Safety should be a prime target for the Redskins on Thursday or Friday of of the coming draft. I’ll be interested to see if the Redskins are interested in trading back and adding another Crimson Tide player in Dieonte Thompson, or perhaps choosing a local player such as Juan Thornhill from Virginia in the second round, or Darnell Savage from Maryland in the third.

Whether it comes in the form of a free agent, a draft pick, or a trade, it’s clear that the Washington Redskins need to add a starting-quality safety to play alongside Landon Collins.

Special Teams

There is no reason at all to waste roster spots in camp bringing in competition for Tress Way or Dustin Hopkins, both of whom — but especially Way — have proven to deserve their jobs.

Because of a late-season injury to Nick Sundberg in 2018, the Redskins have a second long-snapper on the roster, Andrew East — a situation that I wrote about in an article last month. I suspect that the Redskins will keep East on the roster until they are confident about Sundberg’s back and his health in general, then release East at the end of preseason, after giving him the opportunity to snap some balls in live action as an audition for other teams.

The Redskins will almost certainly start 2019 with the same ST specialists unit with which they began 2018 and 2017: Way, Hopkins and Sundberg.

Poll

Predict the earliest round that the Redskins will select a wide receiver in this month’s draft:

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    1st
    (158 votes)
  • 60%
    2nd
    (685 votes)
  • 20%
    3rd
    (232 votes)
  • 1%
    4th
    (17 votes)
  • 1%
    5th
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    6th
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    7th
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    The Redskins will trade for a receiver ahead of camp, but won’t draft one
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    The Redskins will not use any draft capital to add a wide receiver ahead of training camp
    (9 votes)
1136 votes total Vote Now