The Washington Redskins open training camp on Thursday in Richmond and the regular season Sept. 10 against Philadelphia. In between there will be several practices and four preseason games, at the end of which head coach Jay Gruden must finalize a 53-man roster.
Here’s our first projection of that Week 1 roster.
Quarterbacks (3) – Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld
• There’s not much going on here in terms of roster competition. Yet all eyes on Cousins after yet another round of failed contract talks. Plus McCoy and Sudfeld could leave a lasting impression, with 2018 in mind, with their preseason work.
Running backs (4) – Robert Kelley, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown
• Kelley and Perine, the first of two fourth-round picks, battle for lead back duties while Thompson aims for another productive and healthy campaign as Washington’s change-of-pace option. Brown’s work on special teams and his impressive 2016 preseason likely put him on the roster barring a drop in play. Matt Jones will be traded or cut along the way unless injuries elsewhere change the plan.
Wide receivers (6) – Jamison Crowder, Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis
• The top three are locks. Now let’s see how Doctson performs following a lost rookie season and if Pryor has folks dreaming of a Pro Bowl run during in his first year with the Redskins. Perhaps Grant joins the lock list based on head coach Jay Gruden’s constant praise. His run-blocking might keep him on the field more than expected. Harris worked his way from undrafted to practice squad to 53-man roster last season. Good bet either Davis, a sixth-round pick, or 2016 special teams member Kendal Thompson outduel veteran addition Brian Quick for the final slot.
Tight ends (4) – Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Niles Paul, Jeremy Sprinkle
• Reed’s battle with concussions is what matters most. The Pro Bowl-caliber TE turns the offense from good to wow. Injuries could shape the final slots. Paul’s versatility in offensive formations and special teams makes him valuable. Derek Carrier, a quality receiver and blocker, faces a stiff challenge from Sprinkle. Selected in the fifth round, Sprinkle is the biggest of Washington’s tight ends. If Reed, Davis and Paul avoid injuries and the rookie looks the part, Carrier might be in trouble.
Offensive line (8) -- Center (2) – Spencer Long, Chase Rouiller; Guard (3) – Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao, Arie Kouandjio; Tackle (3) – Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsheke
• Not much change here other than Rouiller taking over as the backup center. Ideally, there would be a spot for a ninth lineman, but decisions and needs elsewhere don’t allow. Lauvao could face a challenge from Kouandjio for the starting left guard job. Key word is could.
Defensive line (6) - Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee, Jonathan Allen, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis
• If the Redskins defense improves dramatically from last season’s rankings – 28th in yards allowed, 19th in points per game – changes with this unit will likely be why. McClain, McGee and Allen, Washington’s first round pick, are the newcomers. In this scenario, Phil Taylor, Joey Mbu and A.J. Francis are on the outside. Taylor, a former 1st round selection who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2014 due to injuries, could emerge as a nose tackle option.
Linebackers (9) – Ryan Kerrigan, Zach Brown, Will Compton, Mason Foster, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Junior Galette, Chris Carter
• Astute observers will note only eight names listed above. Trent Murphy gets the final slot, but he’ll miss the first four weeks due to suspension. Martrell Spaight is the obvious answer, though Zach Vigil has a chance because of special teams play. Those first four games will provide something of a tryout for whoever takes Murphy’s place as well Galette who missed the last two seasons with Achilles injuries.
Cornerbacks (5) – Josh Norman, Baushaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Quinton Dunbar, Joshua Holsey,
• Norman is one of the best in the business even if his Washington debut didn’t completely meet the hype. Fuller appears healthier now more than a full year removed from microfracture knee surgery. Third-round pick Fabian Moreau is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. Let’s guess he isn’t ready for Week 1, let alone the bulk of preseason. That would mean opening the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. It would open a slot for Holsey, who looks like a potential find in the seventh round.
Safety (5) – D.J. Swearinger, Su’a Cravens, Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, Montae Nicholson
• DeAngelo Hall is the missing name. If the Redskins have their druthers, the respected locker room leader makes the roster. The thing is Hall missed the 31 games over the last three years with injuries, including a torn ACL in Week 3 that ended his 2016 campaign. There’s certainly a chance for reprieve – Hall is a noted playmaker and would still count for $812,000 on the salary cap even if waived. Nicholson, Washington’s other fourth-round pick, is another PUP candidate. This unit hasn’t been helpful for years, but the aggressive combination of Swearinger and Cravens has promise.
Specialists (3) – Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, Nick Sundberg
• Nothing to see here barring injury or the unforeseen.
Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.