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A look at the Redskins post-draft depth chart and some of the questions it raises

There are still a lot of questions to be answered

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


Great draft, huh?!

The Redskins front office has worked hard this offseason to resurrect a roster from the ashes of the 2018 season, and they haven’t done badly.

Over the weekend, I posted a look at the Redskins depth chart following the first three picks made by Washington on Thursday and Friday.

Today, I’d like to look at the roster situation now that the Redskins made 7 more selections in the draft on Saturday, focusing not so much on the answers that the front office provided with its seemingly excellent draft, but the questions that remain.

I will repeat the caveat from the earlier article; this depth chart is not 100% complete, and it is merely my interpretation of the team’s roster. There may be legitimate disagreements about where players are positioned as starters or backups.

I have listed 76 players, while the Redskins probably have closer to 85 players under contract. This time of year, the number is fluid, with a lot of churn at the bottom of the roster. I haven’t listed players that, in my opinion, are simply camp fodder. For example, I haven’t listed Josh Woodrum, the quarterback signed from the AAF, because I don’t think he has any chance of making the roster from his position behind Keenum, McCoy, and Haskins, (and Alex Smith on the PUP list). He’s simply signed to give the Redskins a ‘thrower’ in camp while Colt McCoy recovers from surgery. There are a number of other players whose names you probably wouldn’t recognize that I also haven’t listed on this depth chart.

For the players that are listed:

  • Blue boxes denote players added (or re-signed) after April 1st.
  • Yellow boxes denote draft picks from this past weekend.
  • White boxes are players who were on the Redskins roster at the end of 2018.

And then there’s the pink box

I think there are a few huge questions that spring to mind when one looks at this depth chart, but the single biggest issue in my mind is:

Question One: Who starts at safety in tandem with Landon Collins?

The Redskins signed the 25-year-old Landon Collins in the mid-March veteran free agency period to be a cornerstone to the defense for the next half-decade.

It was widely expected that the Redskins would use one of their early round draft picks to select a player capable of playing opposite Collins this season, but the Redskins didn’t draft a safety on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

What are the options then?

1. Montae Nicholson

Nicholson started the first half of the 2018 season opposite DJ Swearinger, but at the trade deadline, the franchise traded a 4th round pick to bring in HaHa Clinton-Dix from Green Bay, starting him in place of Nicholson right away.

Montae had a personal meltdown, getting drunk and getting into a parking lot brawl that was captured on video. He was immediately moved to the NFI Reserve list the Commissioner’s Exempt List, where he remains. Until he is taken off of that list, he is unavailable. (content edited for stupidity).

But I’m not so sure the Redskins want to play him anyway. He was, after all, benched at the cost of a 4th round pick before the altercation last year. Jay Gruden’s comments whenever he has been asked about Montae’s status have been noticeably cool, and stand in stark contrast to the positive support that we heard from the organization for Reuben Foster during the off-season.

Bruce Allen publicly agitated for the NFL to make a decision in the Foster case prior to the draft so the team could craft its draft plans. No such comments were made in relation to clearing up Nicholson’s status. If they were planning on using him as a starting safety in 2019, it seems that Bruce would have been equally vocal about getting pre-draft resolution. Instead, the team seems content to let the process move along at its own pace, and I don’t hear any real support for Montae from anyone on the coaching staff or front office.

2. Troy Apke

First, there’s the obvious downside that, if Apke is used as the starting safety, Hogs Haven will have to hire another writer to replace Mark Tyler after his head explodes. Despite his reputation for loving all things Penn State, Mark is possibly Apke’s harshest critic, and it’s hard to argue with him based on the results of 2018.

Apke is entering only his second year, so it’s still early to label him a ‘bust’, but the same cautions were raised about Josh Doctson, who has less than a year remaining as a member of the Redskins after being the team’s #1 draft pick three years ago.

If the Redskins trot out Apke as the starter in Philly in early September, it will be a sign that there’s something seriously wrong.

3. Deshazor Everett

I like Everett. I think he’s a great story, and a good Redskin. He’s not a starter, though.

As with Apke, if Everett is the starter on opening day, it’s a bad sign.

4. A cornerback or linebacker could shift positions

A few players could be candidates here:

  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
  • Josh Harvey-Clemons
  • Adonis Alexander

Maybe others, including the recent 7th round draft pick, Jimmy Moreland from JMU.

I don’t love this option.

5. UDFA pool

It appears that JoJo McIntosh from the Washington Huskies may be on his way to Redskins training camp.

I love UDFAs! I think they provide inspiring stories, and often develop into key players on team rosters... in their 3rd or 4th season.

Rarely does a guy come to camp undrafted with the skills to start as a rookie, much less in week one, and especially at positions like cornerback or safety that require incredible athleticism and high level of understanding of complex NFL defenses.

I just don’t see this as a realistic scenario.

6. Veteran Free agency

We often think of veteran free agency beginning and ending in March, but the truth is, it lasts all the way to the end of the season.

Of course, the initial ‘frenzy’ happens in a 2 or 3 day period in mid-March, then tails off quickly, but there is another bump in activity about 10 days after the draft, because, after 7 May (this year), any veteran free agents signed by teams have no effect on the compensatory pick calculations.

With the awareness that the Redskins front office seems to have developed of comp picks recently, it’s very possible that they have been trying to protect the projected 4th round pick they expect to get for Jamison Crowder.

There are at least three capable veteran safeties on still on the market:

  • 26-year-old Tre Boston
  • 30-year-old Eric Berry
  • 29-year-old Jahleel Addae

Tre Boston would be, in my opinion, far and away the best choice of the three, but any of them, to my way of thinking, would be superior to the other options listed above.

A word on salary cap

There’s an understanding that, as a result of the Alex Smith injury, the Redskins salary cap is very tight, and it is.

It is not so tight, however, that the team can’t afford to sign another free agent. If the Redskins want to add one of these three veteran players next Wednesday, I have no doubt that Eric Schaffer can write a contract that makes it possible without any real strain.

The ripples from the Alex Smith injury

When the Alex Smith injury first happened, it seemed that there might be a chance that he would rehab and come back sometime in 2019 or 2020. As the full extent of his injury and its complications became known, it became clear that he wouldn’t play in 2019 at all, and there now seems to be a tacit understanding that his career is over. There will be some paperwork to do a year or two down the road, and until then, a wink and a nod will suffice.

At first, back in December, I didn’t see how the Redskins front office could possibly put a decent starting quarterback on the field in 2019 with the salary cap restrictions the team would face.

When the Josh Rosen situation developed after Kingsbury was named head coach in Arizona, I latched onto that as the best option, purely for the salary cap implications. It seemed to be the only good option available to the Redskins. I was nearly certain that it would happen.

The trade for Case Keenum changed everything. Keenum’s ‘untradeable’ contract with the Broncos became tradeable when the player agreed to a contract re-structure and the Brocos agreed to eat part of his salary. Washington acquired him for one year at a cap cost of around $3.5m. That made the rest of the off-season possible. If nothing else happened, the Redskins had a guy who could start 16 games and give the team a chance to win.

The Redskins were able to rely on that certainty this past weekend, and not do anything stupid or rash in their search for a quarterback. The front office was patient, and when Dwayne Haskins was available at 15, they took him.

Haskins will earn about $13.5m over the life of his 4-year rookie contract, costing the team an average of around $3.4m per year. Even if he never develops into a starter, Haskins should at least provide a quality backup for 4 years. Colt McCoy, by comparison, has cost the team around $3m per year to hold the clipboard for Cousins and Smith. Haskins has tons of upside, and his contract is really cheap by NFL QB standards; Daniel Jones will earn around $24m over his 4-year rookie contract - roughly $2.7m per year more.

Question Two: Who will be the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins when they visit Philadelphia to open the season?

Haskins has one year of experience as a starting quarterback at the college level. The 21-year-old has tons of potential, but he’ll face a steep learning curve over the next four months.

Meanwhile, Case Keenum is 31 years old, has played six seasons in the NFL, has started at quarterback for 4 different franchises, and took the Vikings to the NFC championship game in 2017. He seems to be the safe bet for the Redskins. He’s seen it all.

Even Colt McCoy can stake a claim to the starting job. He’s the only quarterback on the roster likely to be healthy by September that has experience in Jay Gruden’s offense. He has labored in Washington since 2014, always looking for a chance, and each time it has come, seemed to lose that chance to injury. Jay Gruden seems to be Colt McCoy’s biggest fan, and had talked openly, prior to the draft, of an open competition between McCoy and Keenum this season.

In a press conference this week, Jay Gruden answered a question about who the starting quarterback would be, or whether there would be an open competition, by referring to the Redskins having quarterback competition ‘out the ying-yang’.

But in his usual humorous and off-handed way, Gruden deflected the question, putting it off for now. It’ll be several weeks before his has to face the media again.

“I don’t know what to expect from [Haskins] yet. I have to get him in here, we will throw a lot at him..., but we have to figure out the reps.

We have a quarterback competition going out the ying-yang right now.

We have Case [Keenum] here, we are very happy that we have him. He is an experienced quarterback who’s done it.

Colt’s [McCoy] been a guy who has been in our system for a long time, he is trying to come back from that injury.

Now we have Dwayne [Haskins], so we have three quarterbacks in the building we feel good about.

Of course Alex [Smith] is still rehabbing and doing what he has to do. So, it’s just a matter of getting them all in the room.

Throwing the ball out there, letting them throw and we will continue to progress and let guys have an opportunity to play.”

Personally, I’m inclined to say that I expect Keenum to get the starting nod for opening day in Philly.

During the coach’s breakfast, Gruden talked about first round quarterbacks having to play and contribute, but he also mentioned that Haskins might need time to develop. Gruden will want to roll with the guy he believes gives him the best chance to win — and I think that’s gonna end up being Case Keenum. Gruden fought to make the change from RG3 to Kirk Cousins in 2015 and won that battle. I think he’ll be allowed to sink or swim with the QB he, Gruden, believes in this year.

The situation with Haskins is far different than it was with Robert Griffin; Haskins is younger (21), has much less experience, possibly lower expectations, and he ‘only’ cost the 15th overall pick. There shouldn’t be an incredible amount of pressure from the fans, front office or owner to rush Haskins out onto the field. I suspect that everyone will be inclined to be patient with the rookie’s development.

That could all end by mid-season. If the Redskins are losing, and clearly out of the playoff race, then I don’t think the coaching staff will have any choice but to put Haskins in and start to develop him for 2020.

The big uglies

The Redskins have had a problem at Left Guard for a long time. They didn’t fix it last off-season, and it’s not clear whether they’ve actually fixed it this off-season.

The options for signing a starting guard in veteran free agency weren’t pretty.

It always looked like the Redskins were going to have to draft the next starting left guard.

Question Three: Who will be the Redskins’ starting left guard in 2019?

The Redskins brought Ereck Flowers to Washington in March. Unfortunately, they didn’t let him leave the building without signing him to a contract. If it had been a veteran minimum contract, which is what I expected when I first heard the news that he’d been signed, I wouldn’t have cared much.

But the Redskins are actually paying him some money. Flowers got a million dollar signing bonus, plus another $500,000 guarantee, so he can’t make less than $1.5m for coming to training camp. If he makes the team, he will get paid a bit over $3.2m in total for this season.

Flowers is a failed former first round draft pick of the NY Giants who is not a good NFL tackle. The Redskins have said that they signed him with the intent of trying him out at left guard, a position he has never played before. Part of his overall appeal is that, if he makes the team as a guard, he adds depth as a backup tackle as well.

I think this was the worst off-season move of the past 24 months.

In the draft, the Redskins took offensive linemen with back-to-back picks, first selecting Indiana Guard Wes Martin in the 4th round, then Alabama Center Ross Pierschbacher in the 5th. Pierschbacher (we really need a nickname for him, that name is a bear to type correctly) only moved to Center in his final season with the Crimson Tide; he played Guard for three seasons before that.

Just prior to the draft, the ‘Skins re-signed Tony Bergstrom, a C/G who has started 11 games for the Redskins in the past two seasons.

I think the competition at left guard comes down to these four players:

  • Ereck Flowers
  • Wes Martin
  • Ross Pierschbacher
  • Tony Bergstrom

My prediction is that Martin wins the job as the starting left guard and lines up there against the Eagles in Week 1. Further, I think Pierschbacher makes the team as backup G/C, and the front office holds onto Flowers as backup G/Swing OT. Finally, I think Bergstrom was signed as pre-draft insurance, and gets cut at the end of pre-season.

No seat when the music stops

The worst unit on the Redskins on the 1st of March was the WR group. The front office did nothing in free agency to improve the Redskins receiving group, so it had to be addressed in the draft.

It was.

The Redskins drafted two wide receivers.

The first was Terry McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins’ teammate from Ohio State that a lot of draft analysts believed may have been the best wide receiver prospect on the Buckeyes’ team despite having limited production. What I’ve learned in the days since he was drafted is that McLaurin is a special-teams mad-dog on punt coverage, a smart player, a team leader, and an all around good guy. On another team he might be the fifth or sixth receiver. On the Redskins roster, he looks like he slots in among the top three or four; possibly the top two.

The second drafted receiver was North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon, who came to the Redskins in the sixth round, confounding the mock draft cottage industry, which had projected Harmon as a third-round pick.

It’s possible that Harmon represents a draft steal of epic proportions; it’s equally possible that the amateurs got it wrong, and Harmon was drafted where he should have been. Evan Silva, who has a long history of criticizing all things Redskins, tweeted that Harmon had limited skills, bad Combine results, and that ‘old school’ film analysts didn’t like him.

Most everyone else has praised the pick as a bit of draft day brilliance. Everyone agrees that Harmon is slow, but he is known to have vertical leaping ability and the skill needed to win contested “50/50” balls (where have I heard that before?).

The fact is, the Redskins still have an overall uninspiring group of receivers, and only about half the receivers in camp will have a chance at the 53-man roster. In a group where none of the receivers seem to be able to really ‘separate’ themselves from the group (dyswidt?), which players in the large group of wide receivers won’t have a seat when the music stops? For a few of these guys, the 2019 Redskins training camp may mark the last opportunity in the NFL.

Question Four: Who gets cut from the Redskins wide receiver group?

The Redskins depth chart at wide receiver has few certainties. It is populated by guys that would be #3, 4, 5 or 6 on most other teams.

  • Paul Richardson
  • Terry McLaurin
  • Josh Doctson
  • Trey Quinn
  • Cam Sims
  • Kelvin Harmon
  • Brian Quick
  • Robert Davis
  • Jesu Chesson
  • Darvin Kidsy
  • Tre McBride

The 53-man roster is likely to have either 5 or 6 wide receivers, with 4 active on game day. The fourth guy needs to play special teams.

I predict that Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson will both make the team, if for no other reason than the guarantees on their contracts, and the fact that the ‘Skins don’t really have anyone better to replace them.

McLaurin seems to be a lock based on his special teams ability, bolstered by his draft status.

After that, I think you can draw a circle around the next five names — Quinn, Sims, Harmon, Quick and Davis — and lay almost even odds on which two or three of that group will make the team. Part of it may depend on who is healthy at the end of preseason, but the rest will probably be determined by preseason play, and the ability to contribute on special teams.


Who will start at safety in tandem with Landon Collins in Week 1 at Philly?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Montae Nicholson
    (415 votes)
  • 9%
    Troy Apke or Deshazor Everett
    (222 votes)
  • 8%
    One of the veteran players currently listed at CB (most likely DRC, JHC or Alexander)
    (199 votes)
  • 2%
    Jimmy Moreland
    (57 votes)
  • 1%
    JoJo McIntosh
    (35 votes)
  • 56%
    A veteran free agent (most likely Boston, Berry or Addae)
    (1301 votes)
  • 2%
    Someone else
    (54 votes)
2283 votes total Vote Now


Who will start at quarterback against the Eagles in Week 1?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Colt McCoy
    (84 votes)
  • 75%
    Case Keenum
    (1659 votes)
  • 20%
    Dwayne Haskins
    (451 votes)
2194 votes total Vote Now


Who will be the starting left guard in Week 1 against the Eagles?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Ereck Flowers
    (655 votes)
  • 52%
    Wes Martin
    (1147 votes)
  • 12%
    Ross Pierschbacher
    (275 votes)
  • 2%
    Chase Roullier
    (60 votes)
  • 2%
    Tony Bergstrom
    (49 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else
    (10 votes)
2196 votes total Vote Now


Which of the following players is MOST likely to get cut before opening day?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Josh Doctson
    (160 votes)
  • 13%
    Cam Sims
    (302 votes)
  • 3%
    Kelvin Harmon
    (85 votes)
  • 75%
    Robert Davis
    (1676 votes)
2223 votes total Vote Now