This is like picking the NCAA basketball tournament. Most teams are very easy to pick -- going out on a limb and projecting Robert Griffin III on the roster, barring conflicting statements of course. And there are few things I dislike more than picking the final 53. Why? Chance to be wrong too many times. And yet, here I am on the eve of cut-down day sending out projections. Fortunately, I feel good about tight ends, linebackers and the defensive line. And, I think, quarterbacks. But I'm shaky on running back, receiver and the defensive backfield. More fluid parts there.
Out: Pat White
Note: White made strides, and under different circumstances I’d keep him around. Just to see how he develops. But with questions about Griffin’s durability, I’d be reluctant to have White as my third quarterback because of his inexperience. He improved with his accuracy, but still was inconsistent on certain throws. He’ll take time to develop. Would you keep White to groom him as the backup and then trade Cousins in the offseason? Sure. But what if something else happens to Griffin and you hang onto Cousins, just in case? When you listen to the coaches, they definitely like how White has progressed. Their enthusiasm for his progress is genuine. A few weeks ago I would not have written any explanation about why he would or would not stick around.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
Out: Evan Royster
Note: Royster is a better running back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to trade him. (Was told by one coach of another team there would be at least a limited market for him.) Before the Bucs game, I was convinced he was gone. Now? I think it's 51-49 he leaves. Or, perhaps 50.5-49.5. Williams is a better special-teams player than Royster. Both have solid hands, but Royster needs the ball a lot to be effective. So in a pinch he’s not as effective. Though he’s a good fit in a zone-read, the Redskins have a featured back (Morris), a third-down back (Helu), a speed back (Thompson) and a special-teamer do-it-all (Williams). It does not sound as if Williams' shoulder is that bad from Thursday; if it is, then this changes.
TIGHT ENDS (4)
Out: Emmanuel Ogbuehi
Note: No surprises here. On draft day coach Mike Shanahan made it clear they could keep four tight ends. Paul looked a lot more comfortable this summer than last, thanks to an offseason of work after playing the position for the first time. Reed will help once he becomes more consistent. Ogbuehi impressed them, but there’s no room.
Note: The first five were a lock before camp opened and remained that way throughout the summer. Briscoe could sneak in because of his size, but his hands are inconsistent – that was true last season and again this summer. He had a nice play the other night, but I didn’t like that he got caught from behind. With four tight ends, three of whom are solid receiving threats, and with Helu, the Redskins don’t need as many receivers as in the past. Keep in mind, too, that Shanahan has kept as few as four wideouts in the past (with Denver in 2005 and ’08, according to their opening day rosters). If they keep Dawson or Williams around on the practice squad they should be fine. Neither Dawson nor Williams did enough to warrant a spot. Dawson is quick and was tough to cover in one-on-one drills, but did little in 11-on-11 work. As a returner he was fine, but needed to be great.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Out: Tony Pashos
Note: The Redskins opt for youth at the backup spots, but while Pashos did show some good things – his hands, strength – I’m not sure he moved as well as needed in this offense. Again, another one I’m uneasy about because I don’t like the inexperience with the backups. Plus Compton’s development at left tackle should give them confidence that he could move to the right side if needed. The problem: Compton did not have a good final game, especially early. Gave up more than you’d like in protection and some issues in the run game, too. He was inconsistent in the opener, but played well in the second and third games. They also have Maurice Hurt, who likely will be on the PUP list. I’m uneasy with the backup guards, even though I do like how Gettis progressed.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
Out: Ron Brace
Note: Merling would have been bumped had Jarvis Jenkins not been suspended. So when Jenkins returns, Merling could be in trouble. But Merling was fine against the run. Golston has played well enough to open at left end; he does a better job than Baker of doing his job here, occupying blockers. Baker too often likes to get upfield and make plays; it can lead to big gaps in the defense.
Note: This is tough for me because I like how Compton has played. He’s a smart, decisive player who was able to defeat blockers in part because he often beat them to the spot. I’d definitely want him on the practice squad. The other question is, what happens when Rob Jackson returns from suspension? Do they cut one of these players? I don’t know who you would cut; Tapp has been a terrific surprise (for me anyway) and Jenkins is safe. So they might end up with nine linebackers when Jackson returns.
Note: Murphy is a surprise choice; the coaches really like him and he’s a physical player and good on special teams.
Out: Jose Gumbs
Note: Gumbs to the practice squad. And, by the way, I’m not confident at all in this position. The Redskins, one league source said, had contacted teams about Gomes a couple weeks ago, seeing if there was any trade interest. Whether or not he’s still on the market – or if anyone would part with something for him -- I don’t know. And if they’re concerned about Meriweather’s durability, perhaps you keep Gomes because he can play in the box and back up Doughty. He’s also a good special-teams player. I'm not anticipating a Tanard Jackson return either. He can apply for reinstatement Saturday. That does not mean he'll be reinstated immediately -- if at all. Remember, it was an indefinite suspension.
Note: If you’re expecting great analysis here, stop reading. Nothing to say. They were in from Day One.