Washington Redskins: Surprise Players Who Could Make the 53-Man Roster
With training camp more than a month away, Mike Shanahan still has a number of decisions to make regarding his final roster. The Washington Redskins invited a lot of bodies to compete for roster spots in camp and beyond, but there are only so many openings left to fill.
Undrafted free agents and bubble players don't have much room for error, but there is more than a chance for a few surprises on the final roster.
Most of the top spots are locked up by returning starters and veterans, but depth is a necessity on any successful NFL roster. Here are some of the players who could be surprise inclusions on the final 53-man roster for the Redskins.
Grant Garner, Center
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In Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, mobility and versatility are musts for offensive linemen. There are over a dozen bodies currently amassed along the offensive line for OTAs and the like, but outside of left tackle and right guard, there is a lot of room for a surprise player to earn a spot.
Grant Garner may lack the athleticism of a Shanahan offensive lineman, but he is a versatile and intelligent player.
Garner's intelligence, especially at the center positions, nullifies his lack of great athleticism. He knows where he should be and can impose his will without having to overpower oncoming defenders. Third-round pick Josh LeRibeus is a lock to make the roster, but he is working at three positions in OTAs.
Erik Cook is the only player really standing in the way of Garner making the roster, and that isn't much of a hurdle given Cook's lackluster progression.
Kerby Long, Wide Receiver/Returner
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As it currently stands, Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan and Santana Moss are locks to make the 53-man roster at wide receiver. Last season, the team carried six receivers on the active roster, which leaves two spots up for grabs among a handful of talented, if inconsistent, young players.
Undrafted receiver and returner Kerby Long could play himself into a roster spot in place of Brandon Banks.
Long doesn't have the distinguished college numbers that Banks entered the NFL with, but he has better size and comparable speed. There were times last season that Banks looked to be running for his life as opposed to running for yardage, which is hardly the way you want a returner to approach his craft.
What Long lacks in numbers out of JMU, he can make up for with a display of superior vision to go along with his speed.
Beau Reliford, Tight End
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The Redskins have one of the most talented groups of tight ends in the NFL. Before his suspension, Fred Davis was on pace for over 1,000 receiving yards, and Chris Cooley is still one of the better tight ends in the league, despite recent injury troubles.
Beau Reliford is a big body with great hands, despite limited production in college, who could beat out Logan Paulsen as the third tight end.
Paulsen is the best blocker of the three tight ends returning to the team, but Reliford has shown the capacity to be a good blocker himself. His real chance at making the roster is in his performance as a receiver. In what few opportunities he was afforded at Florida State, Reliford looked like a natural receiver from the tight end position.
Reliford has the size to use his body to go over the middle and shield the ball from defenders. If he can show his physicality as a blocker and a receiver over the middle, he could help himself to an active roster spot.
Alfred Morris, Fullback
The Redskins have a boon of talent at running back between second-year backs Roy Helu, Jr., and Evan Royster, Tim Hightower and rookie Alfred Morris out of FAU. The issue, however, is where Morris might find a spot on the final roster.
Incumbent fullback Darrell Young suffered a mild concussion in November of last season, which could lead the Redskins to keep Morris on as a safety net.
Morris isn't a natural fullback, but he has a solid frame and could beef up to take on the rigors of lead blocking. If nothing else, it would be an opportunity for the Redskins to have another talented back on the roster without overloading one position.
Young isn't injury prone, but the increased concussion awareness and potential for repeat concussions is a concern.
Terrence Austin, Wide Receiver
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Even with his limited production, Terrence Austin has the potential to be a regular contributor on both offense and special teams. His biggest issue is getting the opportunities to show off his upside and earn the right to a consistent role.
Outside of the top three receivers, there is a lot of room for change on the Redskins' receiving depth chart.
Austin has just 15 receptions in two seasons, but he possesses big-play potential and skills similar to those of a young Santana Moss. He figures to be more of a slot receiver, and if Moss can't recapture his former luster, the Redskins will need someone who can be the go-to receiver underneath and earn yards after the catch.
With Anthony Armstrong in and out of the coaches' dog house, Austin might have an outside shot at being the team's fifth receiver. He is signed through 2013, but began his career on the practice squad. His skill set is versatile, and his willingness to do anything asked of him is invaluable.
Jordan Bernstine, Safety/Special Teams
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The Redskins secondary, particularly its safety positions, is a bit of a mess at the moment. The team signed Madieu Williams, Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather this offseason, but their veteran experience is hardly enough to guarantee a roster spot, let alone the starting job.
Seventh-round safety Jordan Bernstine may not have the inside track to start at either safety spot, but his upside could land him on special teams for the first years of his career.
Bernstine is more of a strong safety at this early stage, lacking refined cover skills or footwork to make it as a free safety. His biggest asset is his versatility, with potential to play either safety spot or corner in a pinch. He returned some kicks at Iowa, but will likely be limited to laying big hits on kick coverage.
The Redskins signed Bernstine to a four-year deal, which shows their confidence in his abilities, but it doesn't guarantee his roster spot through training camp.