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Illegal Notion: Projecting the Redskins 53-man roster

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Who’s in and who’s out?

Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Each week, I’ll be posting my observations, ideas, and general musings here in a post named after my old blog, ‘Illegal Notion’. That’s funny because it’s like a football penalty “slash” an opinion about something. I’ll also include a draft nugget and point you towards our latest projections over at Drafttek.com.

This week, the 53-man roster;

Offense (25):

QB (2): Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins (Colt McCoy to IR)

Jay Gruden’s recent quotes regarding Colt’s availability do not paint a favorable picture for his early-season availability. Jay’s clubhouse-leader has not yet healed fully from his three surgeries last winter, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be ready in Week 1. Keenum is my presumed starter for week one, but it isn’t because he’s won the job; I believe that both remaining QBs have not fully grasped the playbook, and because of Haskins’ obvious superior athleticism, upside…er…everything, you would think Haskins would start week 1. However, I believe the team is more willing to sacrifice Keenum to early offensive struggles while the coaching staff makes sure Haskins is fully ready. As Chris Cooley has stated repeatedly, the weekly preparation that is required of a starting NFL quarterback is extremely different than what Haskins experienced in college. Allowing Haskins to get used to/appreciate preparing as if he is the starter for a few weeks while Keenum takes the blame for offensive failures (and probably losses) seems like a no-brainer to me.

RB (4): Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine

Sure, it was preseason, but AP looked simply incredible against the Bengals in his limited action. The aging of NFL running backs is somewhat analogous to dog-years, so seeing a 74-year old man jump-cut in the hole like AP did on his 26-yard run is simply remarkable. It has been reported that Derrius Guice has been cleared to play on Thursday in preseason game number three against Atlanta, so we can all collectively hold our breath to see how his knee responds after a few carries and more significant contact. He could either be a huge part of this offense this year, or, if he follows suit with other Redskins’ injuries recently, setbacks could essentially wipe-out his 2019 season as well. Cross your fingers! Thompson returns (hopefully fully healthy) as the third-down back, and Perine CLINGS onto that last roster spot…and no…not because of his five carries for one yard and his incredulous lack of vision, but because Jay Gruden can’t help himself when it comes to hanging onto his favorites.

WR (7): Paul Richardson Jr., Trey Quinn, Terry McLaurin, Robert Davis, Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims, Jehu Chesson

This is the position where I have to make some tough decisions. Richardson Jr. (though I do worry about his health), Quinn, and McLaurin are the only true locks here in my mind. I do not think fan-favorite (and supposed future Hall-of-Famer) Cam Sims has done enough this offseason to hold onto a roster spot, but the flashes he showed a year ago and his favor with the coaching staff keep him on. Davis is a height-weight-speed phenom, was a Jay Gruden draft pick, and excels on special teams as a gunner. Oh, and he’s the only WR that has produced anything whatsoever this preseason. Harmon is a favorite of the coaching staff and the coaches reportedly view him as the player that fights for the ball in a way they wish Josh Doctson did.

Speaking of Josh Doctson…why keep him? He’s made it clear he’s looking forward to free agency/leaving in the offseason. He liked, and subsequently removed the like of, Su’a Cravens’ Twitter rant blasting the Redskins’ training staff and front office. Hmm. He has produced almost nothing in his four years here, with a perceived laissez-faire attitude that leaves much to be desired. I believe he will be traded for a conditional late pick or another player about to be cut elsewhere in the league.

Jehu Chesson sneaks on because of his special teams acumen, and, if you caught it, Jay’s quote about the WR position being his focus when it came to special teams this year…“The receiver position for one, that’s a big one.”

TE (3): Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

This one’s easy; there’s a chance Matt Flanagan sneaks on because of his blocking skills, but if Jeremy Sprinkle takes the requisite step forward, he won’t be needed. Vernon Davis looks fast, and, well…like Vernon Davis. He and AP are truly marvels. Jordan Reed finally looks healthy after concussion issues/pain in the sesamoid bones in his feet. If he can stay healthy, this offense truly could surprise.

OL (9): Donald Penn, Wes Martin, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Geron Christian, Ereck Flowers, Ross Pierschbacher, Tony Bergstrom

A unit that’s usually tough to project, I think these nine guys are pretty much written in stone, barring a veteran signing from elsewhere. Bergstrom has started multiple games at both guard spots and center, so he’s a lock for depth. Pierschbacher needs to get stronger but has great technique and will be solid depth in the future. Ereck Flowers will hold down the LG spot until Martin (who looks more athletic than given credit for pre-draft) is ready to step in. Christian is still raw but has taken serious steps forward in the past year. Considering the fact that he was out most of the offseason with his injuries, the 2018 third-round pick could be ready to start in 2020 if his progression continues. I expect Penn to start at LT, where he will likely be an average starter, allowing the team to trade Trent Williams for whatever the top offer might be.

On the Trent front; he has been one of the best tackles in the league this decade, but he’s only played in 80% of the games over that span and he’s 31 years old, so that number ain’t going up. In addition, the team has accomplished almost nothing in his tenure. Yes, LT is an important position, but Trent isn’t winning multiple games for you this year or in the future. Trade him. Roullier, Scherff, and Moses will round out the rest of the starters, and as long as they can stay healthy, the right side of the line will continue to be the strength of the Redskins’ offense line.

Defense (25):

DL (5): Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Caleb Brantley, Tim Settle

The defensive line is another group that’s easy to project this season, again, barring injury. Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis look absolutely dominant along the front. One trouble the team ran into last year was the lack of depth after those three, but the progression of Settle and Brantley (who both looked dominant in camp) will allow a more-healthy rotation across the front. Payne looks like a truly disruptive force in the middle, and the fact that he and Ioannidis have stood out over probable team-captain Jonathan Allen is something to get excited about.

EDGE (5): Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Ryan Anderson, Cassanova McKinzy, Jordan Brailford

While I was not impressed with Sweat’s first action this past week, he has the tools to be the first true rusher Ryan Kerrigan has ever had across from him. Speaking of Ryan Kerrigan, he might be the most under-appreciated player over the past decade on the Redskins, and maybe in the league. Think I’m crazy? Consider this; Kerrigan’s ability to stay on the field has allowed him to average 12 sacks per season over the past 5 seasons, while also recording a sack in 67% of his games in his career. He’s 5th on the sack list of current players and has played less games than two of the players ahead of him. Only Von Miller and JJ Watt rank higher than him on that list. If Kerrigan plays 5 more seasons and can average 10 sacks per season, his numbers will be Hall-of-Fame worthy. Yeah. You heard that right.

OK…back to the EDGE guys…Anderson hasn’t proven anything, and even though he does look leaner and quicker than last year, I still think he’s too slow to play on the EDGE and doesn’t have the range to play ILB. McKinzy could be a huge find for this team, as he has garnered extra attention in both preseason games thus far because of his speed and bend around the corner. Brailford has drawn heaps of praise from the coaching staff, and though he still isn’t healthy, I think he makes this team.

ILB (4): Josh Harvey-Clemons, John Bostic, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Cole Holcomb

My favorites to start at this position are JHC and John Bostic. JHC has bulked up and is clearly the most comfortable against both the run and pass out of the four. Bostic has come in and has made the calls early for the team. He gets downhill in a hurry, but I don’t think he will be on the field in passing situations. SDH looks solid when he plays, but he’s small for an ILB and can’t seem to stay healthy. I think his best role will be as a passing-down LB alongside JHC. Cole Holcomb is fast and diagnoses quickly, but his too-shallow zone drops are troublesome and will keep him off the field early as a rookie unless he can correct them. He looks like another solid Jay Gruden draft pick (why the heck don’t we just let that dude draft by himself??).

CB (6): Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Jimmy Moreland, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Greg Stroman (Danny Johnson, Adonis Alexander to IR)

Once a crowded position group, injuries have made corner an easy spot to project. Norman and Dunbar are locks to start on the outside, and Dunbar has looked like the best corner on the team. Moreau is more comfortable outside than inside, but he seems to be locked into the slot role until Norman moves on. Moreland, ‘The People’s Corner’ “slash” ‘Jimmy Effin’ Moreland’, has looked like a ball-hawk but has been beaten consistently in games. The good news; you can’t teach ball-skills. The bad; you can’t play (yet) when you give up 5+ catches per game. DRC will be a veteran presence who, along with Ray Horton, should help the secondary to be far more cohesive than last year. Greg Stroman rounds-out the CB group and will make this team because of his ability to return and cover kicks. Danny Johnson, who the team still likes as a nickel corner, and Adonis Alexander, who has all the tools but has shown nothing since being taken in the Supplemental Draft a year ago, head to IR.

S (5): Montae Nicholson, Landon Collins, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke, Jeremy Reaves

The most improved, and most exciting, unit is the safeties. Montae Nicholson has his head on straight (by all accounts) and the addition of Landon Collins next to him forms a possible standout back-end. Collins has looked the part of a top safety, diagnosing plays quickly, covering TEs effectively, and communicating with a secondary that badly needs to be on the same page this year. Nicholson has been slow to react to some outside throws this preseason, but if he can trust his instincts more and continue to grow, he has elite range and physicality while taking great angles to the ball. Deshazor Everett is a ‘glue’ player, a special-teams standout that everyone on the team loves and respects and who is ready to have his number called in any situation. Jeremy Reaves has been also standout on special teams and has been the kind of downhill diagnosing safety that Troy Apke wishes he was (sorry, Troy). Apke remains on the roster because of his athletic skillset, as his instincts, angles, and consistent hesitation in reads make him almost unplayable at his supposed position (sorry, again, Troy).

Specialists (3): Dustin Hopkins, Nick Sundberg, Tress Way

Those guys are important (and an incredibly funny crew) but I don’t want to talk about them.

Draft nugget: The Redskins’ projected record of 6-10 will put them in the 8-12 range in the 2020 Draft. The teams’ perceived weaknesses, LT and WR, will both be deep positions next year, so the team could be sitting pretty at that spot, perhaps even landing another Alabama player in the Crimson Tide’s WR Jerry Jeudy. Check out Drafttek.com for more projections, big boards, and draft profiles.

That’s it for my thoughts this week. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@Kennedy_Paynter), or drop me a line in the comments below. Thanks for reading!