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Looking ahead: Predicting the Redskins' 2016 depth chart

Looking ahead: Predicting the Redskins' 2016 depth chart

During the Redskins’ bye week we’re taking a look ahead at the 2016 version of the Redskins. We’ve looked at the pending free agents and at the salary cap and what adjustments can be made. Now it’s time to take out the crystal ball and see what the depth chart will look like when they line up next September.

(Starter changes from 2015 are in bold)

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
Backups: Colt McCoy, draft pick

Sure, things can go south in the next nine games but right now the best bet is that Cousins remains the starting quarterback. I think they have to draft a quarterback; the only question is if they take one on Friday (rounds 2-3) or Saturday (rounds 4-7).

Running backs: Matt Jones
Backups: Chris Thompson, free agent, draft pick

When all is said and done, I think that Alfred Morris ends up leaving town and signing with a team that is more committed to the zone-blocking scheme. It also looks like Darrel Young could be headed out and the team will operate without a fullback. Assuming Jones can refine his rushing technique over the last nine games, he inherits the “lead dog” mantle. Thompson is a solid third-down back. Look for them to add a bargain veteran free agent and/or a Saturday draft pick to the mix.

Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon, first-round draft pick
Backups: Jamison Crowder (slot receiver), Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross

Yeah, I’ve spent the top draft pick already. With DeSean Jackson gone since he doesn’t fit into what Scot McCloughan is looking for in a veteran player, they need a big threat at wide receiver. To take a preliminary stab at it six months out, I’ll go with 6-2 Laquon Treadwell out of Ole Miss. Unlike Jackson, Garçon has the work ethic that McCloughan wants to keep around as an example to younger players. Crowder is the slot receiver for the foreseeable future.

Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Niles Paul, Derek Carrier

The only good thing about the ankle injury that Paul suffered is that it was in the preseason opener, so he will have plenty of time to rehab. Reed will be going into his contract year and staying healthy will be of paramount importance for both him and for the team.

Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, 1-2 draft picks

I’m not 100 percent sure that Long can be an NFL starting center but he is probably the most immediate replacement for Kory Lichtensteiger, who would be better off in a zone scheme. The rest of the group can stay intact and continue to gel.

Defensive line: Trent Murphy, Terrance Knighton, Chris Baker
Backups: Ricky Jean Francois, Stephen Paea, Frank Kearse

The unit gets a needed injection of youth with Murphy packing on a few more pounds and converting to end. Knighton re-signs for two or three years.

Linebackers: OLBs Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan; ILBs Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson
Backups: Preston Smith, Will Compton, Jackson Jeffcoat, Houston Bates

I’m not sure what to think of Riley’s future. He has a year left on his contract and his stock still seems to be pretty high within the organization. But Will Compton does a good job when he fills in and there could be a replacement in the draft or in free agency. Joe Barry will work to design ways to get Smith, Kerrigan, and Galette (who I think returns on an incentive-loaded deal) into the game at the same time.

Defensive backs: CBs Bashaud Breeland, Chris Culliver; SS Kyshoen Jarrett, FS Dashon Goldson
Backups: Trenton Robinson, Jeron Johnson, Quinton Dunbar, 2-3 draft picks/free agents

The starting corners are an easy call while the rest of the picture is murky. Goldson likely would have to agree to a renegotiated contract that would considerably lower his $8 million 2016 salary. If he doesn’t, I don’t see him staying but that leaves a hole at free safety that could perhaps be filled in the free agent market. Do things click for Jeron Johnson, allowing him to play a regular role? Does Jarrett return to safety, the position he was drafted to play? Or do they keep a good thing going and leave him in the slot? Do rookie free agents Dunbar and Deshazor Everett show enough promise that the team will bypass a late-round project in the draft?

Specialists: K Dustin Hopkins, LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way

Hopkins came out of nowhere to become the best kicker in recent memory, although we’re looking at a small sample size. Way is getting better at refining his craft and could have some Pro Bowls in his future.

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Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins coaches appreciate Niles Paul. Not just for the immense physical skills, a 6-foot-1, 225 lb. college receiver turned NFL tight end and fullback. He works hard every day at practice, and demands the same from his teammates. 

Last season, Paul landed on the injured reserve after an injury in London during a Week 8 tie against the Bengals. Because of that, some speculation emerged that Paul could be the odd man out in the Redskins tight end group, behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis and fighting with 2017 draft pick Jeremy Sprinkle, not to mention veteran Derek Carrier. 

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS MAKE RUN AT NICK MANGOLD?

After two preseason games, it's clear Paul is ready to fight for that spot. Against Green Bay on Saturday night, Paul logged a touchdown catch and a fumble recovery on special teams, showing the versatility that makes him so valuable to Washington. 

For Paul, he's just happy to be back on the field. 

"I got my season cut in half last year. I just want to be back on the field by any means necessary. I've just been missing it. I've been missing football in my life," Paul said after the game (full video above).

Paul's acrobatic TD grab showed that he still has the explosiveness to help the offense, but his special teams play is what will keep him on the roster. It also helps that head coach Jay Gruden complimented Paul for an outstanding camp and work ethic. 

"His speed looks where it was before the injuries. I mean, I think he's had an outstanding training camp so far. He's done so many different things. And that's one of the toughest positions," Gruden said of Paul. 

The Redskins offense hasn't hit full cylinder yet, but Paul thinks the return of Jordan Reed will help. 

"We're missing a major piece and that's Jordan Reed," he said. "We got some fine tuning to do."

Considering Reed's injury history, and backup tight end Vernon Davis starting the season at 33, a healthy Paul is a luxury for the Redskins. He stands to make nearly $2.5 million this season, but he also brings versatility. Paul is happy to play fullback, a role that seems to be growing, as well as all over the field on special teams. 

Washington will absolutely keep Reed and Davis. With his play this preseason, Paul seems a sure thing too. And if the squad wants to keep their draft pick in Sprinkle, who has tremendous size and has shown promise, four tight ends on the 53-man roster looks like the future. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

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USA Today Sports

With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

News broke late Monday night that Redskins' center Spencer Long underwent a minor knee scope and is expected to miss two weeks. That timetable spells good news for Washington, as that would bring Long back to the team before the first regular season game against the Eagles on September 10th. 

In the meantime, expect rookie Chase Roullier to take over at center for the Redskins. A 6th round draft pick, Bruce Allen and the Washington brass moved up to select Roullier, and the young player out of Wyoming had a strong training camp. 

RELATED: NILES PAUL FORCING HIS WAY TO A ROSTER SPOT?

"He’s done a great job, he really has. For a rookie to come in here and handle all the things he has to handle, it’s been very impressive," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Roullier in early August. 

Still, Jay Gruden has been very clear about the need for a backup center on the roster. Last season the team brought in veteran John Sullivan during the year to provide depth at the position after Kory Lichtensteiger went down with injury.  Sullivan ended up starting one game for Washington, and is now playing with the Rams. 

With Long on the mend, the only other center on the Redskins roster is Roullier. Ronald Patrick is listed with the more generic OL designation though he has played center too.

It seems likely the team will move quickly to add another center, and one name that will get suggested is Nick Mangold. An 11-year veteran that played his entire career with the Jets, Mangold has more experience than Long, Roullier and Patrick combined.

He's also played the position at a very high level. Twice named to the NFL's All Pro team, Mangold has made seven Pro Bowls, most recently in 2015.

It's not entirely clear why Mangold isn't on an NFL roster already. He worked out for the Ravens this offseason, though some reports suggested Mangold wanted more guaranteed money than was discussed. 

A quick look at his Twitter feed does not suggest a guy missing the NFL life. A big soccer fan, Mangold seems very dialed in to London's Tottenham Hotspur and the New York City Football Club. (Check his Twitter out here)

If the team truly believes Long should not miss any regular season action, Mangold is probably not a fit. At 33-years-old with an impressive resume, Mangold likely doesn't want to come back just to be a backup, and Gruden has repeatedly talked about Long's ability and potential in the middle of the line. Should Long suffer a setback, the equation could change. 

Other names are likely to pop up for tryouts, as the 'Skins must consider more interior line depth. Making a run at Mangold might be something fans want to do, though it might not make sense at this point.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!