An opening for Mason?
The first round of cuts generally are insignificant. I'm not exactly sure why the NFL has teams trim about 6% of the roster on one day and then the remaining 34% necessary to get to the limit four days later. The release of Alfred Fincher, however, was a mild surprise and it lines up some tea leaves that we will proceed to attempt to read.
The release of the veteran linebacker, who was on the active roster all 16 games in 2008, leaves the Redskins with seven pure linebackers in H. B. Blades, London Fletcher, Cody Glenn, Robert Henson, Rocky McIntosh, Robert Thomas and Darrel Young. In addition, Brian Orakpo and Chris Wilson are listed as hybrid DE/LB's.
When I projected the final roster a few days ago, I had the Redskins keeping Fincher and cutting Glenn and Young, a rookie free agent out of Villanova. So, one might think that the departure of Fincher is a positive development for Glenn's or Young's chances for making the team.
And it could well be. But I think it's good news for somebody else.
In Blades, Henson, and Thomas the Redskins have good, flexible depth behind Fletcher and McIntosh. Wilson backs up Orakpo. Although they generally like to keep another linebacker for special teams they could get by with this group.
By my prediction that would mean that the defense is taking 25 roster spots. With three reserved for specialists that would leave 25 for the offense:
QB-3 WR-5 TE-3 OL-9
And five running backs. The Redskins have carried four for the past couple of seasons. That would mean that Marcus Mason could join Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, and Mike Sellers.
That lets the Redskins keep their special teams stud in Cartwright, something that I believe Danny Smith will insist on given the departures of James Thrash and Khary Campbell. And it gives the Mason Masses, or whatever the group of fans out there insisting that Mason make the team, their man. And it gives the Redskins a four-tool running back—Mason can run, run with power, catch, and block.
The Redskins also could be creating a spot for Dominique Dorsey, who has done well returning punts and wasn't bad running the ball against New England. But I get the feeling that since the role of Antwaan Randle El is likely to diminish with the emergence of Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly as budding starting-quality receivers, Randle El will continue carrying the punt return duties. That would leave no room for Dorsey.
Something else could be going on. Anthony Aldridge, making his first appearance of the preseason, looked like a player against New England, perhaps room is being made for him. It could happen that they'll keep Glenn or Young on the roster. Or maybe a sixth wide receiver although it's hard to figure out why you would keep a D. J. Hackett and cut Dorsey or Mason.
A lot can happen between now and when the final cuts are made on Saturday. Mason is battling some bruised ribs and if he can't play effectively on Thursday that will have to ding his chances.
But it appears that the door has been opened for Mason and it may be up to him to put on a flak jacket and run through it.