Making the Call on Washington Redskins' Hardest Remaining Cuts
For the first time in a long time, the Washington Redskins have a stable roster with all of the important pieces in place. Stability, though rare around these parts, means good things for the future but difficult decisions through preseason.
With less than a week left before teams are required to cut rosters down to 53, the Redskins have some tough choices ahead.
Washington plays its final preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will get its last good look at the players it has on the bubble for the final roster cut. Some decisions will be easier than others, but a few will make the Redskins think twice.
Here are some of the tougher roster cuts the Redskins will have to make heading toward the regular season.
Niles Paul, Tight End
Fred Davis is poised for a big year, Logan Paulsen is the best blocking tight end on the roster and Jordan Reed looks like he could be a great long-term investment as a pure receiving tight end.
Niles Paul may have special teams experience, and versatility to boot, but he hasn't done much to separate himself from the pack of players destined for unemployment this preseason.
Reed already has the coaches' attention, catching three balls for 31 yards in his first action of the preseason. Davis has four catches for 52 yards and touchdown and Paulsen has five catches for 44 yards.
Even as a converted tight end, Paul doesn't offer a ton of upside, and the Redskins have plenty of special teams players to render his services unnecessary. His two catches for 10 yards show his minimal involvement in the offense, as well as his inability to create opportunities as a receiver.
Chris Baker or Chris Neild, Nose Tackle
Chris Neild spent 2012 on injured reserve while Chris Baker was making big-time plays in goal line situations. During this preseason, Baker and Neild have both looked capable of spelling Barry Cofield, byt Baker has a sack to his credit.
Baker is the bigger body, more attuned to the necessary space-eating duties, but Neild has great leverage which allows him to control blockers and create havoc.
It doesn't make a lot of sense to keep three nose tackles, but no matter which player they keep, the Redskins don't really lose a lot in terms of ability.
Evan Royster, Running Back
The Redskins are happy to have Roy Helu back in the fold, healthy and looking as good as ever in his third season. Alfred Morris is poised to top his impressive rookie campaign with Helu behind him, which means there's room for one more running back on the active roster.
That running back will not be Evan Royster.
Royster registered 14 carries in the preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans, but hasn't seen any action since. Keiland Williams, on the other hand, has 18 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown across all three games.
Chris Thompson, for all of his fumbling problems, is young and dynamic, whereas Royster is lightly seasoned and more of a grinder than a quick hitter. Royster made the roster last season by virtue of Helu's injury and little else.
Pat White, Quarterback
Kirk Cousins is the unquestioned backup to Robert Griffin III, that much we know. Rex Grossman has been with the Redskins since 2010, and has made his mark as a bit of a roller coaster ride in terms of on-field production.
Pat White, however, is the feel-good story of the preseason after having not played a down of football since 2009.
Whatever warm fuzzy feeling the comeback story creates is irrelevant. He is an athletic quarterback, but aside from being an RGIII facsimile in practice, he hasn't done much in preseason. He threw one interception while completing less than 55-percent of his passes with a quarterback rating of 54.
Aside from his two rushing touchdowns, White never established himself in the passing game, which was to be expected after being out of football for so long.
Cutting White isn't necessarily a difficult decision, but there are plenty of fans who would just as soon see Grossman sent packing for his career TD-INT ratio of 56-60.
Lance Lewis, Wide Receiver
As intriguing and talented as he is in just his second year out of college, Lance Lewis has not done much to earn a spot on the active roster. He's a big target with good speed, but he had to tryout with the team just to be brought back after spending 2012 on injured reserve.
The only thing keeping Lewis from making the active roster is production, and through three preseason games, he has just two receptions.
Assume the Redskins keep Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson. That means, in all likelihood, they have room for one more receiver on the active roster. Dezmon Briscoe and Lewis both have two catches, but Briscoe has a long of 24 yards compared to Lewis' identical 10-yarders.
Briscoe has the luxury of having recorded NFL statistics, whereas Lewis is hoping his potential will guide him to a roster spot.
Will Compton, Inside Linebacker
London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Nick Barnett and Bryan Kehl are guaranteed to fill the inside linebacker slots, with Kehl playing the role of special teams ace in addition to veteran depth.
Kehl leads the Redskins in tackles this preseason with 16, but rookie Will Compton is tied for second in total tackles with 11, turning heads with his nose for the ball.
The Redskins will need all the football minds they can get, and Compton has the makings of a young, smart tackling machine. But what he possesses in potential, he lacks in experience, and that seems to be the direction the 'Skins are going with their linebacking corps.
It may be a wise choice to stash him on the practice squad, especially considering the injuries to rookie Jeremy Kimbrough and second-year linebacker Keenan Robinson.
Rob Jackson, Outside Linebacker
When Brian Orakpo went down for the season in the second game of 2012, it was a huge blow to the Redskins pass rush. Then Rob Jackson stepped in, got his feet wet and responded with 4.5 sacks, four interceptions and a touchdown.
It wasn't the double-digit sackfest or heavy pressure performance expected out of Orakpo, but it showed Jackson's abilities.
His performance earned him a one-year deal during an offseason where the Redskins were strapped for cash, showing his value to the team.
Fast forward to March when we learned Jackson would be suspended for four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. That plus the addition of veteran Darryl Tapp, who already has a sack in his first time playing outside linebacker, and the Redskins suddenly don't need Jackson that much.
Tapp and rookie Brandon Jenkins give the Redskins plenty of depth to where Jackson isn't needed.