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The 53: OL starters look set, battles for reserve spots

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The 53: OL starters look set, battles for reserve spots

The Redskins will report to training camp on July 25. Over the following five weeks they will undergo the process of cutting their 90-man roster down to 53. Which players will get those coveted spots and which will join the ranks of the unemployed? Over the next couple of weeks well go through position by position and try to predict what decisions Mike Shanahan and company will make.So far weve covered the running backs, tight ends, quarterbacks, and wide receivers (see below for breakdowns). Today, its the offensive lineThere are 16 offensive linemen on the roster, the Redskins will keep nine.In: Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Jammal Brown, Willie Smith, Tyler Polumbus, Josh LeRibeus, Tom Compton
Out: Erik Cook, Grant Garner, Adam Gettis, Maurice Hurt, Nevin McCaskill, James Lee, Nick MartinezChanges from 2011: OT Sean Locklear left as free agent (signed with NY Giants); Lee signed as a free agent, LeRibeus, Compton, Gettis selected in draft.BreakdownThere are many out in Redskins Nation who are undoubtedly disappointed that it appears that the same five players who started the season opener on the offensive line last year will do the same this year. It appears that the only thing that will prevent that from happening is a setback in the recovery of Kory Lichtensteigers injured knee.But the Redskins were 3-1 with that unit before things fell apart. And after the 10-sack Week 8 debacle in Toronto against the Bills things gelled for the reserves. The Redskins gave up an average of just two sacks a game in the last nine games of the season.The pressure is on Williams to become a star. At the other tackle, the pressure is on Brown to stay healthy and stay on the field. If he cant Smith or maybe even Compton could take his job as the year goes on. Lichtensteiger, Montgomery, and Chester arent threats to make the Pro Bowl but as long as they can plug up the middle on pass plays and get out to the next level on the stretch play they will be more than adequate.It appears that two of the backup spots are set with Smith and Polumbus. Smith made the team as an undrafted rookie last year and started the last three games of the season at left tackle after Williams was suspended. He was far from dominant but he did show some promise. Polumbus started games at both left guard and right tackle last year and he is a valuable backup.It seems like LeRibeus, the second player the Redskins drafted after RG3, quickly became a favorite of the coaches by diving in and learning both center and guard. Mike Shanahan has stressed versatility with his linemen and LeRibeus should earn a spot if he can master all three interior line spots, or at least become competent enough to fill in.Compton is in on a hunch and by default as much as anything else. Hurt has been moved back to tackle after starting eight games at guard last year and he will need to show substantial improvement to get a roster spot. The same goes for Cook, who started two games at center. While it would be a mistake to completely write off either one of them, the Redskins may just want to start fresh and work with Compton.If Compton demonstrates reasonable competence and potential it is hard to see him not staying over the 27-year-old James Lee, although the veteran does bring some experience as a starter with him. Compton would really have to fall on his face for the Redskins to keep Lee over him.And it wouldnt be a total shock for Gettis to make it over any of those four. He also is learning both guard and center and they could figure that they are set with Polumbus and Smith as the backup tackles and choose to develop him.If Cook and Hurt do not make it, neither is eligible for the practice squad. Compton and Gettis are eligible along with McCaskill, Martinez, and Garner. The practice squad is probably the most that the latter three can hope for.Projections to date (click for details and breakdown):Running backsIn: Roy Helu Jr., Tim Hightower, Evan Royster, Darrell Young
Out: Tristan Davis, Alfred Morris, Antwon Bailey, Lennon CreerTight endsIn: Fred Davis, Niles Paul, Chris Cooley
Out: Logan Paulsen, Richard Quinn, Beau RelifordWide receiversIn: Anthony Armstrong, Pierre Garon, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson
Out: Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin, Darius Hanks, Brian Hernandez, Lance Lewis, Samuel KirklandQuarterbacksIn: Robert Griffin III, Rex Grossman, Kirk Cousins
Out: Jonathan Crompton

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True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on their roster this year.

Rich Tandler: True

The Redskins drafted a tight end to a roster that had four experienced players at the position already on it. But, make no mistake, fifth-round selection Jeremy Sprinkle was not a “luxury” pick.

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both stone cold locks to make the roster. They are the pass catchers who are expected to combine for perhaps 1,500 yards and at least a dozen touchdowns.

The third tight end could be Niles Paul, a veteran who has battled injuries the last two years. He appears to be healthy and if he stays that way he can play tight end, be the fullback on the six or eight snaps per game the Redskins use one, and be a strong contributor on special teams.

Sprinkle can fill a role that those three can’t—blocking tight end. Jay Gruden had to put tackle Ty Nsekhe on the field when they needed a three-tight end set. That made the job of the defense easier with essentially four eligible receivers to deal with.

With a well-defined role for each player, it would make perfect sense for the Redskins to carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster rather than the customary three. Of course, if they carry four at tight end they have to go with one fewer player elsewhere. They will find a spot.

Running back seems to be the logical place to go for that spot. If they keep, say, Mack Brown as the fourth running back you then have a player without a defined role. He’s the backup to the backup to the backup. Sure, he can do special teams but not as well as Paul.

Perhaps if you want to keep Brown you let go of Paul, with his recent injury history and his $2.2 million cap number in mind. Or you can let Sprinkle get some seasoning on the practice squad.

But I think that the Redskins drafted Sprinkle with the plan to keep four tight ends. If they are going to go with their best, most versatile 53 that is what they will do.

JP Finlay: False

Man, this is tough. If you asked me this in May, I thought Niles Paul would be caught in a roster crunch. After watching the guys on the field through OTAs and minicamp, this decision becomes much harder. 

Paul played well in OTAs and camp, showed no rust from the injuries and impressed regardless what quarterback he was paired up with. Sprinkle looked like a rookie with a lot to learn, and while he's really big, he still seemed like his upper body could fill out in the NFL. 

In a vacuum it's easy to say the Redskins should keep four tight ends. Like Tandler laid out above, Reed and Davis are roster locks. Paul can help in a ton of spots, and Sprinkle should evolve into the blocking tight end for the jumbo set. 

But NFL rosters aren't made in vacuums. To keep a fourth tight end, the Redskins will have to make a cut, and Tandler suggested Mack Brown could be the guy. I don't see that happening. Jay Gruden and Randy Jordan speak glowingly about Brown. 

This will be a fun roster spot to watch, but in June, before any injuries or the competition of training camp, I think the Redskins keep Reed, Davis and Paul. Then they really, really hope they can sneak the rookie Sprinkle to their practice squad. Washington has not kept three healthy tight ends on their roster in the last few seasons, and if that trend continues, Sprinkle would make the NFL roster before the end of the year. Keeping four tight ends just isn't a luxury the Redskins have, especially keeping three quarterbacks like they're expected to do. 

Tandler-Finlay True or False series: Leading rusher | Leading receiver

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Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Much can be learned looking to the past, at least that's what thousands of college students hear every fall when they sit down for History 101. Assuming the premise is true, perhaps something can be learned from looking back at Bruce Allen's tenure across the NFL and the quarterbacks that started for those teams. 

A refresher, Allen worked with the Raiders and Bucs before coming to the Redskins. Allen started with the Raiders in 1995, and worked his way up through the front office, earning the NFL's Executive of the Year award in 2002. He left the Raiders to work with Jon Gruden in Tampa in 2004, after the pair experienced much success together with the Raiders. Tampa fired Allen in 2008, and he came to work with the Redskins in 2010. 

His tenure with the Raiders showcased the best QB find in his file: Rich Gannon. Before coming to Oakland, Gannon earned the journeyman title, starting 58 games over 11 seasons for the Chiefs, Vikings and, yes, the Redskins.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

Once Gannon and Gruden worked together, everything clicked. The Raiders started winning games and Gannon started to pile up impressive offensive stats. He was the quarterback when Oakland lost the infamous 'Tuck Rule' playoff game against New England, and won an NFL MVP award in 2002 while guiding the Raiders to the Super Bowl (which they lost to a Jon Gruden coached Tampa team). 

Gannon was a find, undoubtedly. Beyond that, Allen's resume on quarterbacks gets pretty ugly.

In fact, Kirk Cousins would probably rank as the second best QB of all Bruce Allen teams. In Tampa, the quarterback position was a revolving door, and included luminaries (sarcasm font) like Chris Simms, Brian Griese and Bruce Gradkowski. The Bucs added Jeff Garcia in 2007, and he had some success, but was 37 years old at that point. 

Once he got to Washington, the Redskins trotted out a collection of subpar passers like a past his prime Donovan McNabb, never actually good John Beck and Rex Grossman. Rex needs no introduction. 

In 2012, the Redskins quarterback fortunes changed. The team made a very aggressive trade to draft Robert Griffin III. RG3 was supposed to be the franchise savior, and for much of his rookie season, that plan seemed to be working. 

Injuries and infighting ruined Griffin's time with the Redskins, and opened the door for 2012 fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins to emerge. 

Now, in 2017, Cousins has twice broken the Redskins single season passing yards record and cemented himself as a quality NFL starter. His long-term future with the organization remains uncertain, as Cousins will play this season on a one-year contract and the prospect of a multi-year contract seems slim. 

It's hard to draw too many conclusions looking the quarterbacks throughout Allen's tenure. Before Gannon in Oakland, the Raiders tried a variety of other journeyman QBs (Jeff Hostetler, Jeff George). One could argue they got lucky with Gannon, or that the organization brought out his best tools. Either way it's a positive grade.

In Tampa, the results look much worse. On paper, it seemed the Bucs tried to get cheap, available quarterbacks and make them work, believing strongly in their offensive system. It didn't work. 

In Washington, particularly during the Grossman/Beck season, it seemed the Redskins tried a similar approach. That ended in 2012 with the trade for RG3. The Redskins paid up big time, in the form of draft picks. 

Now it's arguable that a deal with Cousins can even be reached, but if that does happen, it will be because the Redskins pay up. Recent history doesn't suggest it, but this situation has never presented itself either. Cousins is a fourth-round pick that emerged after a few volatile seasons to establish himself as a Top 15 NFL starter.

There's no lesson for that in the history books. 

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