Phil Taylor and Nate Sudfeld are quite different football players. Sudfeld is tall and lean. Taylor is just huge, somewhat tall but as wide as a tree trunk.
It's hard to think that the season-ending injury to defensive lineman Taylor could make a big impact on the roster status of third-string quarterback Sudfeld, but when rosters must get trimmed from 90 to 53 men, every decision has ramifications elsewhere on the list.
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Taylor won't be on the 53, but in his absence, the Redskins might decide to keep more defensive linemen. The logic goes this way: With Taylor, the Redskins had a veteran that definitely knew the rigors of the nose tackle position. Without Taylor, the Redskins have two young players without much game experience in A.J. Francis and Joey Mbu, or other veterans perhaps better suited for the defensive end role in the 3-4 system like Ziggy Hood and Stacy McGee. Hood and McGee will both play some nose, but that doesn't mean it's the best position for them.
That's four D-linemen right there, and first round rookie Jonathan Allen is an absolute lock for a roster spot. Matt Ioannidis and Terrell McClain seem certainties as well. That would make seven from the D-line.
Many NFL teams only keep six defensive linemen on the roster, because usually, only five D-linemen dress on game days.
"A lot is going to determine that. How many defensive linemen are we going to dress on game day? That’s one. If we dress five or six on game day, how many we’re going to keep on the 53-man roster. There’s still some time for us to have those discussions and we will," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday.
Should Washington decide to keep seven defensive linemen, the team will be forced to make an extra roster spot. And that's where Sudfeld could come in.
Typically, NFL teams keep 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players and three specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper) to make their 53-man roster. If the Redskins need to create more spots, they could go 26 on defense and 24 on offense.
Sudfeld is the most dispensable player on offense. Many teams around the league only carry two QBs, and a third passer has become a luxury.
A few factors make the situation harder to decipher. For starters, the Redskins brass likes Sudfeld. Doug Williams said that Sudfeld graded out as a first-round pick in the 2017 draft, and former GM Scot McCloughan spoke highly of Sudfeld's potential. Combine that praise with the fact that Kirk Cousins is on a one-year deal, and Colt McCoy's contract expires at the end of 2018, and Sudfeld could make sense for Washington.
Keep in mind, too, Sudfeld's play has not been overly impressive. Potential only lasts so long. Watch enough practice, and it's clear Gruden is hard on the second-year passer. Maybe that's to develop him, or maybe it's becuase the play isn't up to par.
Thursday night is a big chance for Sudfeld. He's going to play the full game for the Redskins.
"This is a great opportunity for him to show what he can do," Gruden said of Sudfeld. "We’ll see how he does. All those roster decisions, they are going to come up come Friday morning when we get back."
While the fourth preseason game carries little meaning for starters and key reserves, for guys like Sudfeld, Francis and Mbu, this game means a ton.
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