When I think preseason game number four, the first word that comes to mind is “LAST”. It’s the last preseason game before the games start to count. For many these players that have bled and sweat throughout training camp and preseason, this is their last shot to prove they belong. It’s their last opportunity to make an impression. It’s their last chance to showcase themselves to the Redskins coaching staff and maybe even grab another franchise’s attention. This could be the last opportunity some of these young men get to play in the National Football League or the last time they put on the pads at any other level. For the coaching staff, it’s their last chance to evaluate talent and see who they believe belongs on the 2019 Washington Redskins final roster.
The Washington Redskins will likely be sitting the majority of their starters this week against the Baltimore Ravens. This provides the opportunity to let a couple of these final position battles play themselves out and give the starters some recuperating time before they begin a long 16 game season. In most cases, by the 4th preseason game, the first and second string on the depth chart has been identified. There may be a few exceptions where the depth decisions may be too close to call and the coaching staff may need a little more game film to evaluate. There also may be some final roster spots that haven’t quite been secured and this final game may make or break a player’s opportunity to make the Redskin 53-man roster.
There are a number of players in the discussion and on the proverbial bubble in making the team. It will all come down to a numbers game and a series of questions to include:
How many total players in each position group do the Redskins plan on retaining?
How much depth do they need to have at a given position?
Will they retain a return specialist to occupy a roster spot, or will they use a position player? Will they keep three quarterbacks on the roster, or just two?
Are there certain players that aren’t ready to play today, but they want to keep around for development by signing them to the practice squad?
Will they retain any players specifically for special teams coverage?
These are all examples of what the coaches are considering right now all the way up to the moment they submit their final roster on Saturday.
There are a few position battles that I want to highlight. The first and most obvious is the wide receiver battle. The Redskins have about 8 or 9 receivers that could possibly make this roster by the time all is said and done. They most likely will retain 6 or possibly 7 wide receivers depending on how many players they want to retain at other positions such as defensive line, offensive line, and defensive back. My preliminary 53-man roster has the Redskins keeping 6 wide receivers. There are three players I believe to be locks to make the team at wide receiver starting with Trey Quinn who Jay Gruden himself has deemed “their slot receiver”. The second is rookie Terry McLaurin, who had zero catches in the preseason, but the Redskins didn’t use a 3rd round pick on him this year to not allow him to develop. The 3rd wide receiver is Paul Richardson. The Redskins love that Richardson can play inside or outside and cause mismatches with his speed all over the field. His challenge: staying on the field. Some of you may be asking yourself, “why isn’t Josh Doctson on this list”. Josh Doctson is a wild card. Doctson deserves to be there, but do the Redskins really want him there? He is in the last year of his contract and is only set to make 2.8 million after they declined to pick up his 5th year option. They have already essentially given him his walking papers for NEXT season, so they may not prolong the inevitable. Some may be asking “why isn’t Cam Sims on the list” or Robert Davis or Kelvin Harmon? Darvin Kidsy Jr? A strong case can be made for any of these players to be on the roster against the Philadelphia Eagles on opening day, but the reality is there are only a certain number of roster spots allocated per position. You have to distribute depth across your entire roster if you want to be able to compete. The idea that this many wide receiver positions are being fought for by this many players in one preseason is unprecedented. Ultimately, this may not be a bad thing if the Redskins are able to identify who the best options are and get the most out of them.
Another position battle that could possibly come down to a numbers game is the cornerbacks. How many do the Redskins plan on keeping? Currently, I have four locks at corner. Returning are Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, and Fabian Moreau. The rookie from James Madison Jimmy Moreland’s performance throughout training camp and during preseason games has assured me he has outright earned a “lock” at a roster spot as well. The last few slots will be battled for by Greg Stroman who can also play special teams, the veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who is more than likely closer to being a “lock”, and Adonis Alexander who has been unable to perform due to an injury that could ultimately cost him an opportunity at be on the final roster.
The interior defensive line (nose tackle and both defensive ends) has an interesting situation. The starters are set in Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis. After Tim Settle (NT) and Caleb Brantley (DE), there is no lock at who will add depth to their rotation. Some possible candidates to make the team at defensive line are Ryan Bee, Jojo Wicker, and Austin Maloata. The Redskins could choose to only keep six interior defensive linemen and use Ryan Kerrigan and/or possibly other outside linebackers in situations to rush the passer, versus using an additional roster spot on another defensive end.
Every year there are a few surprises when the final rosters come out and I can’t say that I know this year will be any different. What I do know is that the coaches have their work cut out for them, and I don’t envy their task of cutting down a 90+ man roster to 53 with such little room for error. Coaches have their favorites and every year fans develop their own favorites by the time preseason game number 4 comes around. At the end of the day, head coach Jay Gruden and his staff have to compile the most talent and put this team in the best position to win. They have to possess the ability to evaluate talent and pick the best out of the bunch. This isn’t always easy to do when trying to find a balance of your team needs, talent, and leadership in order to create a winning and healthy culture. That said, that’s exactly what Gruden and his staff have to do in order to put the best product on the field opening day in Philly. Some may feel the final preseason game means nothing. Tell that to the players that will be playing for their livelihoods tonight. Tell that to the player’s families they are trying to support by securing a roster spot on some NFL team. Tell that to the coaches that will have to crush some of these kids dreams in order to get down to a mandated roster number. Best believe, there is more than meets the eye on the line in this final tune-up game for the regular season and expect to see all the players involved playing with that type of emotion. As you were...