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Washington Redskins Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

Shae CroninCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2012

Washington Redskins Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

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    For any fan under the age of 25, this season is undoubtedly the most exciting and highly-anticipated season of Washington Redskins football you've ever been a part of.

    And for all fans over the age of 25, well, this season is probably just as damn exciting.

    After being forced to watch our beloved Redskins stink it up for more than two decades amongst numerous coaches and quarterbacks, a dictatorship and an embarrassing number of playoff appearances, there is finally something to look forward to.

    So maybe Robert Griffin III won't take the Redskins to a Super Bowl in his first season at the helm, but damn if he doesn't make you feel like it's possible.

    And with Mike Shanahan in his third season of a five-year plan, fans have to feel positive about the direction of the team. For the first time in a long time, the Redskins are fresh with youth; strong character is now a priority, and the front office is no longer treating summers like lottery payouts for mediocre talent.

    Creating high expectations for the Redskins during the weeks leading up to the preseason is a thing of the past. Or at least it should be. Even if the Redskins finish the 2012 season with a 7-9 record, this year is about progress.

    For a team that has gone through the turmoil of Albert Haynesworth, Jeff George and Steve Spurrier, anyone that believes a serious turnaround and playoff football will happen overnight in Washington might as well make a wish in some other fountain.

    This season will be about the growth of a franchise that has the potential to be something great over the course of the next few years. A franchise quarterback has finally arrived; offensive playmakers are beginning the climb to their prime, and the defense is becoming a solid unit from the trench back.

    Looking forward, 2012 is as important a season the Redskins have had in over 20 years.

Aug 28 Cuts

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    In addition to the following players being waived/cut, the Redskins traded cornerback Kevin Barnes to the Detroit Lions for a conditional draft pick and right tackle Jammal Brown was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.  

    TE Chris Cooley

    After spending all nine seasons of his NFL career in Washington, Cooley was released on Tuesday. Although his $6 million cap hit was said to be a non-factor, one has to believe that it was. Fred Davis is the clear No. 1 in camp and $6 million is a lot to spend on a backup role at the position. You can see Cooley's statement here, from right after the news was handed down.

    PK Graham Gano

    The Redskins released Graham Gano in order to make room for the recently released Billy Cundiff. While many had questions regarding Gano's inconsistency, it seemed like everyone had answers confirming Cundiff's habit of choking.

    This move makes very little sense to me. The Redskins apparently don't see themselves in many games coming down to three points this season. Otherwise, they're in trouble.

    RB Antwon Bailey 

    Even with unexpected injuries hitting the backfield, the rookie out of Syracuse had very little chance of making the roster. Not only was he outmatched in terms of skill during the preseason, but he had a fumble that Mike Shanahan was visibly angry with. 

    RB Lennon Creer

    The rookie from Louisiana Tech was a camp project and long-shot from the beginning. 

    OL Chris Campbell

    After receiver Darius Hanks was released due to injury, the Redskins filled his spot with the second-year man out of Eastern Illinois. Campbell was brought on for the right reasons -- with the offensive line being so thin. But he joined too late to have a legitimate chance. 

    WR Sam Kirkland

    With four spots generally locked at receiver, the position was one of the toughest competitions. Kirkland wasn't enough in practice to warrant him any extra time. 

    LB Monte Lewis

    Although Lewis had upside with his size as a pass-rusher, the rookie from Jacksonville State competed amongst a talented unit. The Redskins linebacking corps is arguably one of their deepest. 

    OL Nick Martinez

    There was a shot for Martinez after some displays during preseason games, but the rookie guard from Oklahoma State will likely land on the practice squad. He has potential with development in the system. 

    TE Beau Reliford

    I was never as high on Reliford as most others, simply because I refused to fall in love solely with his size. At 6'6" and 270 pounds, Reliford could find work elsewhere, or perhaps on a practice squad. But his blocking needs are a big work in progress. 

    QB Jonathan Crompton

    After spending time on the team's practice squad last year, Crompton was in a very tough spot this season. With two rookies that were locks to make the roster and a veteran with experience in the offense, Crompton knew it was only a matter of time. 

    CB Morgan Trent (injured)

    Trent was originally claimed off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The fourth-year vet had a slim chance of making a thin secondary, but injury and the emergence of Richard Crawford was enough to make Trent a part of first cuts. 

    CB Lance Lewis (injured)

    The undrafted free agent from East Carolina was one of favorite rookies coming into this season. Although not extremely fast or flashy, Lance Lewis has potential in the NFL. It would be nice if Lewis could somehow land on the practice squad. 

    OL James Lee

    Originally joining the team after spending time under Raheem Morris in Tampa, Lee was thought to bring depth to the tackle position. And while the Redskins are in desperate need of help on the right side, guys like Willie Smith and Tyler Polumbus were still way ahead of Lee. 

    K Neil Rackers

    Perhaps the most surprising of releases, the release of Rackers solidifies Graham Gano's place on the roster and role of starting place kicker. The Redskins could still bring in a free agent to test Gano, but it seems unlikely if Rackers couldn't get it done. 

    OL Tony Moll

    Again, adding depth along the offensive line was a free agent's best shot on the Redskins roster. Unfortunately for this seven-year veteran, the coaching staff found talent elsewhere for the interior. 

Latest Roster Moves

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    The following list of Redskins transactions starts in late July, following the finalization of Robert Griffin III's contract with the team. All transactions prior to July 24 can be found by using the provided link. 

    All team transactions will be reported directly and exclusively from the Redskins' team website. For each and every transaction, this link will be used as the only news source

    07/30/2012:  The Washington Redskins signed offensive tackle Jordan Black. He may not change the landscape of the position, but he was atop the Redskins' list when it came to UFAs. Black is a 32-year-old veteran that has bounced around the league.

    07/30/2012:  The Washington Redskins released linebacker Jonathan Goff. Despite having the opportunity to compete for a spot at the inside linebacker position, Goff tore his ACL during practice and will be forced to miss the season. 

    07/28/2012:  The Washington Redskins claimed Dezmon Briscoe from the Buccaneers. After battling some off-field issues, the second-year receiver was released and even received a few claims from other teams (including the Cowboys). The Redskins landed him and brought him in as a sizable (6'2") camp project after watching him haul in six touchdowns during his rookie season last year. 

    07/28/2012:  The Washington Redskins waived wide receiver Brian Hernandez. Despite a somewhat consistent college career, Hernandez was a huge long shot to make the roster. 

    07/25/2012:  The Washington Redskins signed fullback Dorson Bryce. With projected starter Darrel Young going down with a strained hammy, Bryce was signed to fill in during camp. 

    07/25/2012:  The Washington Redskins placed cornerback Chase Minnifield on IR. After he cleared waivers, Minnifield hit the injured reserve list because the Redskins didn't want to rush back a young man with a blown knee. See: Malcolm Kelly.

    07/25/2012:  The Washington Redskins waived guard Nevin McCaskill. It won't change much in the makeup of the offensive line, as McCaskill didn't really have a chance of earning a spot this season.

    07/24/2012:  The Washington Redskins waived cornerback Chase Minnifield (designated injury).

    07/24/2012:  The Washington Redskins signed cornerback David Jones. After losing rookie Chase Minnifield to injury, Jones was signed for depth during practice. But he'll have too much work cut out for him to make the final 53. 

    For all team transactions prior to July 24, visit this Redskins team link

Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart

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    Quarterback (3): Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman

    Running Back (3): Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster, Tim Hightower

    Fullback (1): Darrel Young

    Tight End (3): Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, Niles Paul

    Wide Receiver (7): Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Terrence Austin, Aldrick Robinson, Brandon Banks

    Offensive Line (9): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Willie Smith, Tyler Polumbus, Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt, Adam Gettis

    Defensive End (4): Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker, Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston

    Nose Tackle (2): Barry Cofield, Truck Neild

    Inside Linebacker (4): London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Lorenzo Alexander, Keenan Robinson

    Outside Linebacker (4): Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson, Markus White

    Cornerback (6): Josh Wilson, DeAngelo Hall, Kevin Barnes, Cedric Griffin, Richard Crawford, Brandyn Thompson

    Safety (4): Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams, DeJon Gomes, Tanard Jackson

    Special Teams (3): Graham Gano, Sav Rocca, Nick Sundberg

Last 5 In

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    OL Adam Gettis

    The rookie gets a second look because of Jammal Brown's lack of durability. Coaches like Gettis' athleticism, and he can play guard or sub at center.

     

    CB Richard Crawford

    Perhaps the rookie was thought to be a practice squad guy this season, but showing up in practice gives coaches enough to find him a spot on the roster at a position that isn't exactly deep. 

     

    S Tanard Jackson

    Fellow safety Reed Doughty has found a way to stay on a roster regardless of coordinator or scheme for years. But Jackson's athletic and physical ability give him the edge this year. Perhaps new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris helps to rejuvenate Jackson's career. 

     

    OL Maurice Hurt

    Despite being roughed up a bit last year as a rookie, head coach Mike Shanahan seems to be pleased with Hurt's progression through camp so far. Hurt may be natural at the guard position, but he could also serve as an emergency fill-in at right tackle.

     

    KR/WR Brandon Banks

    Being strictly a kick returner isn't what keeps Banks on the roster. Instead, coaches will likely find a way to get Banks the ball in space on offense and allow him to go make a play. If Banks can showcase his speed and vision in both the return game and offense, then he deserves the spot. 


Last 5 Out

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    OT Jammal Brown

    Unfortunately for Brown, his nagging hip injury didn't get any better with offseason yoga and pilates. Although the team would like to retain Brown in hopes that he could return midseason, his cap number is simply too high. 

    As of August 1, Redskins insider Chris Russell has reported that results from Brown's MRI have not yet been released. Brown remains in New York awaiting the results, claiming that he's tired of "rest" and that he wants news of a real remedy.

    To me, Brown is as good as gone. He's in too much pain to play. And even without surgery, how can anyone rely on him for 16 games?

     

    OT Tom Compton

    With Brown out, rookie Tom Compton had a chance to make the roster and add some depth at right tackle. And while Willie Smith continues to nurse a twisted knee (current diagnosis, pre-MRI), Compton still has a slight shot. But fellow rookie Adam Gettis offers a little more versatility along the front line, and Compton will have a chance to improve on the practice squad.

     

    NT Chris Baker

    He has the size to play the position and his practices have been impressive so far, but Baker is beat out by Neild's experience from last season. There's a chance that Shanahan carries three nose tackles, but I'd assume he'd rather carry more defensive ends in the 3-4 scheme.

     

    S Reed Doughty

    Over the past several years, Reed Doughty has found himself on the Redskins roster regardless of scheme, coach or coordinator. But Doughty's coverage skills are finally tested this season during training camp, and his tackling doesn't hold strong enough.

     

    ILB Bryan Kehl

    Signed as an unrestricted free agent, Kehl was a long shot to make the roster to begin with. Kehl's chances increased after the Redskins lost Jonathan Goff to a torn ACL, but it won't be enough. Rookie Keenan Robinson also has the potential to play both inside and outside. 

Quarterbacks

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    QBs on roster: Kirk Cousins, Jonathan Crompton, Robert Griffin III, Rex Grossman

    Projected starter: Robert Griffin III

    Offseason additions: Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III

    Projected final roster: Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman

     

    Analysis

    Since before the rookie was even signed to his deal, head coach Mike Shanahan made it clear that Robert Griffin III was the Redskins' starting quarterback. And for good reason.

    Not only did the Redskins mortgage their future in order to move up to the No. 2 spot and select him in April's draft, but Griffin is also the most talented quarterback on the roster without having even played an NFL down.

    Through camp so far, both Rex Grossman and Kirk Cousins have struggled. The obvious difference between the two is that Grossman has been in the league for about a decade, while Cousins is a fourth-round rookie.

    Ideally, Shanahan would move into the regular season with only Griffin and Cousins. But because of Cousins' inexperience, Grossman is almost a guaranteed insurance policy at the No. 3 slot.

Running Backs

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    RBs on roster: Antwon Bailey, Lennon Creer, Tristan Davis, Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Dorson Bryce

    Projected starter: Roy Helu

    Offseason additions: Antwon Bailey, Lennon Creer, Alfred Morris, Dorson Bryce

    Projected final roster: Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Tim Hightower, Darrel Young

     

    Analysis

    One of the more interesting camp battles will take place at the running back position, as second-year guys Roy Helu and Evan Royster will battle with veteran Tim Hightower for the starting job.

    At this point, Roy Helu is the favorite by default, simply because he received a bulk of the carries last year; and his pass-blocking wasn't shameful. However, Royster appears to understand the system, and his hard running style is likely making Shanahan giddy.

    On the other hand, Hightower is returning from a torn ACL and ESPN 980 Redskins Insider Chris Russell has said on air that Hightower isn't even near 95 percent at this point. Although his effective pass-blocking will be as crucial this season as any, it's not shaping up to have Hightower starting on Sundays. Situationally? Absolutely. But not a ton of action.

    While fans root for their personal favorites throughout camp, whether it be Helu, Royster or Hightower, the good news is that all three are viable starters. And when it comes to Shanahan's system, having a stable of capable runners is a whole lot better than staking all confidence in one guy.

    Despite suffering a strained hamstring in practice (July 30), Darrel Young is the Redskins starting fullback. While hamstrings aren't necessarily the most forgiving injury, Young is expected to be okay. His athleticism, speed and blocking will go a long way for the Redskins this season.

Wide Receivers

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    WRs on roster: Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin, Brandon Banks, Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Darius Hanks, Sam Kirkland, Lance Lewis, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Niles Paul, Aldrick Robinson, Dezmon Briscoe

    Projected starters: Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan

    Offseason additions: Pierre Garcon, Darius Hanks, Brian Hernandez, Sam Kirkland, Lance Lewis, Josh Morgan, Dezmon Briscoe

    Roster cuts: Brian Hernandez, Kelvin Bolden

    Projected final roster: Terrence Austin, Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Brandon Banks

     

    Analysis

    With over a dozen competing players in camp, the wide receiver position will be one of the most entertaining to watch this summer.

    Barring some unfortunate injury during the preseason, we can all expect free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to make the roster.

    Morgan is returning from an injury last season in San Francisco, but the Redskins have big plans of using him as a slot receiver. And Garcon, after posting improving numbers in each of his first few years with the Colts, was shown the big dollars this summer with the Redskins' belief that he can be a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

    Veteran Santana Moss is said to have reported to camp in the best shape of his career. After missing a majority of last year due to injury, Moss returns at the ripe age of 33 hungrier than ever.

    After lacking playmakers last season, the Redskins made it their mission to go out this offseason and correct it. That's what guys like Garcon and Morgan were forto bring some yards after catch to the receiving corps.

    That being said, I would look for the Redskins to side with playmakers this seasonguys that have speed, size and the ability to make a play after the catch.

Tight Ends

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    TEs on roster: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Richard Quinn, Beau Reliford

    Projected starters: Fred Davis

    Offseason additions: Beau Reliford

    Roster cuts: Rob Meyers

    Projected final roster: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Niles Paul

     

    Analysis

    The aging Chris Cooley is on shaky ground at this point, as injuries have limited him recently, and his cap number isn't exactly something you can sweep under the rug. But, when healthy, the 30-year-old veteran is the Redskins' best pure tight end. And assuming he stays healthy, there's no doubt he makes the roster.

    Likely positioned as the Redskins starting tight end is Fred Davis. After missing the final four games of last year for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Davis was hit with the franchise tag and basically told by the team to prove he can be a responsible professional.

    Davis was one of the team's sole offensive playmakers last season, and there's no denying his talent. But if he can't get his act together and keep his head on straight, Shanahan doesn't seem like the guy that would lose any sleep over having to bench him or show him the door at season's end.

    And finally, bringing up the rear, is probably my favorite story of the entire offseason.

    After being drafted in last year as a wide receiver, Niles Paul was converted to tight end this offseason with the thought of a hybrid-like position in mind.

    Listed at 6'1", 235 lbs., Paul has the physical tools to be a successful tight end in the NFL's evolving offensive game.

    Although not close to guys like Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski in terms of size or height, Paul is a natural pass-catcher; he has great body control; he is extremely physical; he's fearless in any situation (whether it be across the middle of special teams) and he's a committed blocker.

    With Cooley slowing down physically and the jury still out on whether or not Fred Davis can conduct himself as an adult, this season will be crucial for Niles Paul and his future with the Redskins.

    Redskins Nation should be extremely excited for this young man. He's got the perfect blend of attitude and talent.

Offensive Tackles

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    OTs on roster: Jammal Brown, Tom Compton, James Lee, Tyler Polumbus, Willie Smith, Trent Williams, Jordan Black

    Projected starters: Trent Williams (L), Willie Smith (R)

    Offseason additions: Tom Compton, James Lee, Jordan Black

    Projected final roster: Tyler Polumbus, Trent Williams, Willie Smith

     

    Analysis

    Beginning in the second half of last season, left tackle Trent Williams began to show signs that proved his worth as a former No. 4 overall pick. His technique had improved, his hand placement was more strategic and his athleticism continued to be a natural characteristic of his game.

    Williams was then forced to miss the Redskins' last four games as part of a suspension for failing the league's substance abuse policy. Apparently the NFL lockout caused The Silverback to smoke some green on more than one occasion.

    Williams has since expressed his regret and says that he has learned from his mistakes. Throughout camp so far, Williams looks to have returned to midseason form from a year ago, and I expect him to really take off this season and place his name on the list of some the league's best young tackles.

    On the other side, veteran Jammal Brown would be the starting right tackle. Unfortunately, nagging injuries to his hip and groin are threatening his roster spot all together.

    It's not necessarily that the Redskins couldn't place Brown on a list and recall him after Week 6, because his talent (when healthy) is worth that much. But when you look at his overall reliability and durability, in addition to his cap hit this season, Brown is a very expensive liability.

    If Brown can't go, second-year man Willie Smith is likely next in line. He did twist his knee in practice on Monday (July 30) after getting steamrolled by Rob Jackson, but MRI results are pending. I would expect Smith, even if he suffered an injury, to be fine by Week 2 of the preseason.

    And worst case scenario, veteran Tyler Polumbus is a decent fill-in at right tackle. He showed some tenacity last year and also has the ability to come in and play at guard. To me, it seems like coaches are getting more and more comfortable with Polumbus. Perhaps because they have to.

Offensive Guards

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    OGs on roster: Chris Chester, Erik Cook, Grant Garner, Adam Gettis, Maurice Hurt, Josh LeRibeus, Kory Lichtensteiger, Nick Martinez

    Projected starters: Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester

    Offseason additions: Grant Garner, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus, Nick Martinez

    Roster cuts: Nevin McCaskill

    Projected final roster: Chris Chester, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus, Kory Lichtensteiger, Maurice Hurt

     

    Analysis

    Not to beat a dead horse, but the Redskins offensive line this season is solely dependent on health.

    Although many were unaware that Kory Lichtensteiger was a key cog along the offensive front last season, everyone was quickly reminded after the team lost him in Week 6.

    Steiger started camp in good shape, saying that his recovery from an MCL and ACL tear in the same knee felt great. But on Monday (July 30), Lichtensteiger underwent arthroscopic surgery on that same knee to remove cartilage particles.

    The injury news surrounding Steiger isn't nearly as alarming as that of Jammal Brown, but Shanahan has made it clear that he will likely take a cautious approach and keep Steiger down through the preseason. In other words, Steiger is still considered the team's starting left guard.

    On the other side, Chris Chester reigns supreme at the position. Because he's one of the healthier starting linemen on the roster, the right guard spot is absolutely his to lose.

    Rookies Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis, along with second-year player Maurice Hurt, could serve as key reserves for the Redskins this season. Therefore, having starters go down or experience setbacks is not a pretty picture.

Centers

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    OCs on roster: Will Montgomery, Grant Garner, Erik Cook

    Projected starters: Will Montgomery

    Offseason additions: Grant Garner

    Projected final roster: Will Montgomery

     

    Analysis

    Not to sound negative, but center is arguably one of the more boring positions in camp this season.

    Will Montgomery is slated to return as the starter, even with a majority of us believing he's better-suited as a backup.

    The Redskins signed un-drafted free agent Grant Garner out of Oklahoma State, and I do think he has a slight chance to make the roster, depending on his versatility.

    In my opinion, Garner and fellow rookie Adam Gettis fight for a roster spot (despite being at different positions), and it ultimately comes down to how many positions they can play on the line. From strictly an athleticism and size standpoint, I think the spot would go to Gettis. I did, however, praise Garner throughout last season while playing very well in OSU's spread offense.

Defensive Ends

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    DEs on roster: Kentwan Balmer, Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker, Kedric Golston, Jarvis Jenkins, Delvin Johnson, Darrion Scott, Doug Worthington

    Projected starters: Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker

    Offseason additions: Delvin Johnson

    Projected final roster: Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker, Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston

     

    Analysis

    It seems as if defensive ends in 3-4 schemes never get nearly the amount of credit they deserve. And that couldn't be any more true when talking about the Redskins.

    Although fans and coaches clearly saw the importance of Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker last season, the opposition didn't seem to show them much respect. As a result, both Bowen (6.0 sacks) and Carriker (5.5 sacks) had highly productive seasons.

    This season, the unit becomes even better now that Jarvis Jenkins joins the group.

    Jenkins was a rookie last year that was lost for the season before ever playing his first regular season game. Fortunately, it was an early-season injury, and Jenkins has had plenty of time to recover from the torn ACL.

    Before his injury, Shanahan praised Jenkins for his work in camp/practice, and some were even labeling him the team's most talented defensive lineman. So far this offseason, Jenkins appears to have restored his explosiveness, and we all have a reason (once again) to be very excited.

Nose Tackles

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    NTs on roster: Barry Cofield, Chris Baker, Truck Neild

    Projected starters: Barry Cofield

    Projected final roster: Barry Cofield, Truck Neild

     

    Analysis

    When the Redskins signed Barry Cofield as a free agent last summer, not everyone believed that he could make the transition from defensive tackle to nose. That transition, however, really couldn't have gone much smoother.

    Cofield was very productive as a middle clog last year for the Redskins, and the expectations for him are even higher this season. Cofield is not only in the second year of Jim Haslett's system, but he also doesn't face the restrictions of a locked-out offseason like he did last year.

    Truck Neild was somewhat of a surprise keep last season when it came down to roster cuts. As a late-round rookie, Neild did perform well when on the field, and I would think he's the favorite to backup Cofield again this season.

    But that's not counting out Chris Baker. He's large enough to play the nose, and he can move. I wouldn't be surprised to see a fight between he and Neild throughout camp.

Outside Linebackers

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    OLBs on roster: Ryan Kerrigan, Monte Lewis, Brian McNally, Brian Orakpo, Keenan Robinson, Markus White, Chris Wilson, Rob Jackson

    Projected starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo

    Offseason additions: Monte Lewis, Brian McNally, Keenan Robinson

    Projected final roster: Rob Jackson, Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, Markus White

     

    Analysis

    Not much is more exciting on defense than pass-rushers in the 3-4 scheme. Given the green light to take a quarterback's head off on every play, the Redskins don a pretty solid duo.

    As a rookie last season, Ryan Kerrigan proved that converting from a down lineman to a stand-up edge linebacker is easy, and he earned recognition as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

    This season, with a year of experience under his belt and ample time to better learn the position, Kerrigan is expected to have a big year. He didn't miss a single snap as a rookie in 2011, and everyone hopes that streak that can remain intact for 2012.

    On the other side, Brian Orakpo enters his fourth professional season and remains committed to improving his technique and rush moves.

    Orakpo spoke earlier this week about learning something on every play in practice because even though he can't hit the quarterback, he goes through a mental rep and strategizes about where to put his hands, where to tackle, how to detect if a tomahawk is necessary, etc. (via insider Chris Russell, @Russellmania980)

    With both of these guys healthy, the Redskins are equipped with one of the better young rush-linebacker tandems in the league.

Inside Linebackers

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    ILBs on roster: Lorenzo Alexander, London Fletcher, Donnell Holt, Bryan Kehl, Perry Riley

    Projected starters: London Fletcher, Perry Riley

    Offseason additions: Jonathan Goff, Donnell Holt, Bryan Kehl

    Roster cuts: Jonathan Goff

    Projected final roster: London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Lorenzo Alexander, Keenan Robinson

     

    Analysis

    Continuing to defy the laws of the human body, the ageless London Fletcher returns to the Redskins as one of the most underrated linebackers in the league. He'll once again captain the defense, and he has another good shot at leading the team in tackles. Whether it be middle linebacker or inside linebacker, Fletcher is a reliable force.

    Originally, I thought free-agent pickup Jonathan Goff could battle for the linebacker spot alongside Fletcher, but his torn ACL has made him the Redskins' most recent roster cut.

    Not to worry, as third-year linebacker Perry Riley has picked up valuable experience along the way and seems prepared to take over the starting role. Riley is a solid tackler and plays physically with good read-and-react skills.

    Lorenzo Alexander, also known as "Mr. Everything," remains with the Redskins, and he should receive some looks at inside linebacker. However, there have also been talks of Alexander being used at tight end. With his versatility, the possibilities are endless.

    Rookie Keenan Robinson was more of a natural fit at outside linebacker in college, but I see him best-suited as an inside guy in the NFL. He's not explosive as an edge-rusher, but he has above-average athleticism and coverage skills, with a good feel for the game and great reaction time.

    Already having been a fan of Robinson from his days at Texas, I think the Redskins were fortunate to land such a versatile linebacker. And given that his pass-rushing skills could improve, he has the potential to be very good in just a few short years.

Cornerbacks

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    CBs on roster: Kevin Barnes, Jordan Bernstine, Richard Crawford, Cedric Griffin, DeAngelo Hall, Brandyn Thompson, Morgan Trent, Josh Wilson, Chase Minnifield, David Jones

    Projected starters: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson

    Offseason additions: Jordan Bernstine, Richard Crawford, Cedric Griffin, Morgan Trent, Chase Minnifield, David Jones

    Roster cuts: Leigh Torrence

    Projected final roster: Kevin Barnes, Cedric Griffin, DeAngelo Hall, Richard Crawford, Brandyn Thompson, Josh Wilson

     

    Analysis

    With the secondary being one of the Redskins' most suspect positions, I won't say that cornerback is necessarily exciting. However, I will say that being excited for a couple of the individual cornerbacks is justified.

    After watching Josh Wilson come into his own near the end of last year, all eyes will be on him this season to become the team's No. 1 cover-corner (which he already is, based on talent).

    In a radio interview that I heard personally, Wilson admitted that the lack of offseason last year really stumped his ability to grasp the defense. He was basically thrown into the mix and didn't really begin to understand the defense until about Week 7 or 8.

    DeAngelo Hall remains the Redskins' highest-paid defensive back, although many question his ability to cover opposing receivers. Hall will continue his gambling playmaking ways this season, but coaches may prefer to line him up at the nickel in order to better showcase his talents.

    The Redskins were thought to be lucky enough to sign undrafted free agent Chase Minnifield this summer, but a nagging knee injury has since landed him on the IR. And while I was once predicting Minnifield a starter by next year, his injury really doesn't look good.

    In a slight surprise, rookie Richard Crawford has been very impressive in early practices. Where at one time I predicted him as a member of the practice squad, Crawford is continuing to prove me stupid. And I love it. Don't be surprised to see him make the roster.

    Albeit early, both second-year man Brandyn Thompson and free-agent signee Cedric Griffin have struggled in camp thus far. Although both seem positioned to make the roster, neither are guaranteed. They'll need to step it up in practice and make plays come preseason games.

Safeties

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    Safeties on roster: Travon Bellamy, Jordan Bernstine, Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes, Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams

    Projected starters: Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson

    Offseason additions: Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson, Jordan Bernstine, Travon Bellamy, Madieu Williams

    Projected final roster: Tanard Jackson, DeJon Gomes, Madieu Williams, Brandon Meriweather

     

    Analysis

    Despite the loss of LaRon Landry, the safety position may be better this season than it has been in years past. That is, of course, barring the unexpected.

    From a talent standpointand when taken at their bestfree-agent additions Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams are very solid football players. But there will be a fight this summer in camp to see which of them is actually at their best.

    Meriweather is a two-time Pro Bowler with valuable NFL experience, but his attitude and work ethic raise some concern. Since signing with the Redskins this offseason, Meriweather has already racked up a DUI and pled guilty.

    At one point, local product Tanard Jackson was a rising star in Tampa Bay. Off-the-field run-ins (violating the league's substance abuse policy) eventually landed him a one-year suspension. After he was unable to pass a physical last April, the Bucs released Jackson.

    One aspect of the secondary that many aren't focusing onor perhaps I'm placing too much emphasis on itis the fact that the team has hired Raheem Morris as their new defensive backs coach.

    Morris' fiery style and experience as a head coach have already excited his players in Washington, and he could play a special role in the potential rejuvenation of Tanard Jackson's career.

    DeJon Gomes earned valuable time last season as a rookie, and he still has the opportunity to start. Things won't be easy for the young man, but his future appears bright.

    Finally, former Maryland star Madieu Williams has looked solid in practice so far. He has the veteran experience for the whole unit to learn from, and he's a leader in the locker room. The only concern regarding Williams is his injury-plagued backgroundhe plays about 11 games per year on average.

Kicking Specialists

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    Kicking specialists on roster: Neil Rackers, Graham Gano, Sav Rocca, Nick Sundberg (long snapper)

    Projected starters: Graham Gano, Sav Rocca (P), Nick Sundberg

    Offseason additions: Neil Rackers

    Projected final roster: Graham Gano, Sav Rocca, Nick Sundberg

     

    Analysis

    I wouldn't go as far to say Graham Gano is a favorite, but fans are at least familiar with him. And they're also familiar with his inconsistencysomething that was apparently no secret to coaches either.

    The Redskins signed FA veteran Neil Rackers in the offseason to come in and give Gano some competition, something that will hopefully propel Gano and get him over the hump.

    It's nothing about Gano's foot strength, or accuracy for that matter. It's just a matter of being consistent. His accuracy, while not perfect, seems to develop from a lack of consistency.

    Not to be confused, I don't think there's a whole lot of emotional value between Gano and the club. Although Shanahan would probably like Gano to win the job, no one should anticipate any exceptions. The best kicker in camp and preseason will be the kicker for the Redskins in 2012.

    Sav Rocca returns as one of the more effective punters in the league, and the Redskins are lucky to have him. It's obvious that kickers often go overlooked, but Rocca shouldn't be on that list.

    And then there's Sundberg. Nick Sunberg is Nick Sundberg. Not to say his position doesn't matter, but it sure is uneventful. He was efficient last year and will likely stay with the team.

Return Specialists

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    Returners on roster: Brandon Banks, Jordan Bernstine, Aldrick Robinson

    Projected starters: Brandon Banks

    Offseason additions: Jordan Bernstine

    Projected final roster: Brandon Banks, Aldrick Robinson

     

    Analysis

    As mentioned before, Brandon Banks must bring something more to the table this year if he plans on making the team. While his 2010 season was electrifying and promising, Banks' 2011 was average. And being that he's undersized and strictly used as a kick returner, there simply isn't enough room for a player without versatility this year.

    Banks has mentioned that he's in good health this camp, which should help his performance. But my opinion is that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will have to get creative in implementing Banks in the offense somehow, whether it be bubble screens, coming out of the backfield, reverses, etc.

    With other guys on the roster such as Aldrick Robinson, Terrence Austin, Niles Paul or even rookie Jordan Bernstine, Banks has to separate himself. Not necessarily from a talent perspective as a returner, but in the sense that he needs to prove he can contribute at another position.

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