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How many players are locks to make the Redskins' 53?

How many players are locks to make the Redskins' 53?

The Redskins have the league maximum 90 players on their roster and a lot of what goes on between now and the start of the season will be about finding out who will be on the final 53-man roster. There is plenty of talk from Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan about competition. But how much competition is there really? How many of those coveted 53 jobs are already locked up and how many are up for grabs? As OTA’s start next week let’s take a look with the caveat that injuries and a truly surprising performance could change the picture for a few players.

Right now, it looks like 41 players are locks to make the final roster:

Offense (20)

QB (2): Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy
RB (3): Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Matt Jones
WR (6): Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, Ryan Grant, Jamison Crowder, Evan Spencer
TE (2): Jordan Reed, Niles Paul
OL (7): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Shawn Lauvao, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio

Two of last year’s starters on the line, Chris Chester and Tom Compton are in danger of not making the roster. Kirk Cousins is a lock at QB unless he is traded. There will be plenty of competition for the last one or two spots at running back. Tight end seems to be set but there is a long shot chance for someone surprising and knocking Logan Paulsen off of the 53. It’s not much of a chance but enough so I’m not calling Paulsen a lock.

The Redskins are likely to keep 25 or 26 offensive players so there are five or six jobs up for grabs on that side of the ball.

Defense (18)

DL (5): Jason Hatcher, Stephen Paea, Chris Baker, Ricky Jean Francois, Terrance Knighton
LB (8): Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Preston Smith, Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley, Will Compton, Martrell Spaight, Adam Hayward
DB (5): Chris Culliver, Bashaud Breeland, David Amerson, Dashon Goldson, Jeron Johnson

On the line there is at least one or possibly two jobs up for grabs. Inside linebacker looks set but there is an opening for a backup outside LB. The defensive backfield probably has four spots to be filled. One of them will go to DeAngelo Hall if his injured Achilles is rehabbed in time for the start of the season.

There are likely to be 24 or 25 defensive players on the roster so that leaves six or seven spots open counting the one that Hall might fill.

The three specialists on the roster, kicker Kai Forbath, punter Tress Way, and long snapper Nick Sundberg, are all locks.

That makes a total of 41 locks so 12 jobs are up for grabs,

Who is in contention for those 12 spots? I count 23 players who right now appear to have a legitimate chance of challenging for those jobs:

Offense (10): OL’s Tom Compton, Chris Chester, Josh LeRibeus, Austin Reiter; TE’s Je’Ron Hamm, Chase Dixon; QB Kirk Cousins; RB’s Silas Redd, Chris Thompson, Trey Williams

Defense (12): DL’s Kedric Golston, Frank Kearse; OLBs Jackson Jeffcoat, Trevardo Williams; DB’s DeAngelo Hall, Tevin Mitchel, Tracy Porter, Phillip Thomas, Trenton Robinson, Duke Ihenacho, Kyshoen Jarrett, Akeem Davis

With 41 locks and 22 bubble players, that leaves 27 who will have work to do and may need a couple of breaks to get into serious contention for a roster spot. But they are in an NFL camp and while their chances of making it are slim, they are better off than those of thousands of others who are on the outside looking in. I would not rule out any of these players making it; in fact, chances are that one or two of them will make it. But, right now, the odds are long.

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

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