We’re well into training camp at this point, with the first pre-season game of 2021 only two nights away. There haven’t been any roster cut downs yet, but we’re beginning to get close, and, it seems like, for the first time in a very long time, Washington has some serious depth on both offense and defense.
Based on what we’re hearing from camp, I thought I’d take a look at the current 90-man roster and try to project three players who will make the final 53-man roster, much to the surprise of many in the fan base. It’s harder than you’d think, but I’d love to see speculation in the comments below.
The journeyman wide receiver who entered the league in 2015 as an undrafted free agent is now on his 8th team in his career. He was signed by Washington in April, after having played for the Bears last season, as a return specialist. It’s no secret that Washington had serious issues in its punt return game last year, and they were looking for an upgrade.
Over the course of his career, Carter has averaged 9.3 yards per punt return and 21.8 yards per kick return. As points of comparison, those numbers would have put him at 8th in the league and 12th in the league, respectively, last season. Steven Sims averaged 6.7 yards per punt return and Danny Johnson averaged 22 yards per kick return for the WFT last year.
The news from camp suggests that Carter’s not only getting looks in the return game though. He’s also getting reps in the slot, which is probably bad news for Steven Sims. Back of roster players need to bring versatility to the table, and Carter appears to have that in spades, which should bode well for his chances of making the 2021 WFT.
Deandre Carter has shown over the last few days that he’s more than just a special teamer. He's made some nice catches and just had a great red zone TD on tight coverage from Benji St-Juste— Lake Lewis Jr (@LakeLewis) July 31, 2021
DeAndre Carter with completed pass in the end zone on a pass from Heinicke. Another guys who’s been stacking good days together.— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWFT) August 2, 2021
Hobbled by injury last year after having been taken in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, Gandy-Golden spent much of the off-season rehabbing his hamstring,
“It’s actually stronger than before. We did some tests ... and my baseline was higher this year than when I first got here.”
Washington’s wide receiver room is tight however, with a significant ramp up in talent from both the draft and free agency. Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, and - increasingly - Adam Humphries - look like locks to make the roster. If we add Deandre Carter into that mix, there’s essentially one, or maybe, two WR spots left, and guys like Cam Sims, Kelvin Harmon, and Steven Sims, all scrambling for spots.
Gandy-Golden isn’t the fastest of the bubble WRs, but he’s one of the tallest, and may have the best hands. The first couple pre-season games are going to be critical for all the back-end WRs on the team, but they might be most important for the Gandyman.
On Antonio Gandy-Golden, who is ready to rock in Year 2, and appreciates that his coaches and teammates stuck by him through a rocky rookie campaign:https://t.co/KacQcUQUMk— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) August 2, 2021
Antonio Gandy-Golden had consecutive impressive catches along the sideline.— Rhiannon Walker (@InstantRHIplay) August 2, 2021
First one was on the left sideline on a comeback route.
Second was back shoulder and he dragged his feet to complete the catch
It seems like almost since Deion Sanders declared that Apke could “run, run” at the 2018 NFL Combine and he was taken in the 4th round of the draft a few weeks later, he’s been the object of serious skepticism. He’s fast as hell, but he’s had trouble taking proper angles and tackling as long as he’s been in the league. That having been said, it’s clear the team values his special teams contributions.
This off-season, endowed with a wealth of talent at safety, the coaching staff decided to try Apke at cornerback. The experiment has had its ups and downs, but Apke appears to be taking to the transition surprisingly well. If I had written this a week ago, I doubt I would have included Apke, but based on recent accounts, his retention may end up surprising a lot of people.
I think his innate assets are simply too much to just let walk out the door. After all, as most coaches know (and the science affirms), “you can’t teach speed.”
Troy Apke with some great effort on a deep pass from Kyle Allen to Kelvin Harmon. Harmon laid out to try and reach the ball, Apke did too to make sure the ball fell incomplete— Rhiannon Walker (@InstantRHIplay) July 30, 2021
Yet another great play by Troy Apke. Looked like Wright was going to make a catch in the front corner of the end zone, but Apke came in and knocked the ball away. Feels like Apke has quietly been putting together a real solid camp.— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWFT) August 3, 2021
Which of these long shot players do you think is most likely to make the 53-man roster?