Early Projections for Washington Redskins' Final 53-Man Roster

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

Early Projections for Washington Redskins' Final 53-Man Roster

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The first Washington Redskins roster under new head coach Jay Gruden will feature key changes at prominent positions. Those positions include wide receiver, where two exciting free agents will move to near the top of the pecking order.

    The impact of free agency will also be reflected at defensive end, inside linebacker and safety. The biggest change post-2014 NFL draft will involve the right side of a revamped offensive line.

    A pair of third-round picks will vie for starting berths, with a change almost certain at tackle.

    Here's what the final 53-man roster should look like for a team attempting to recover from last season's dismal 3-13 record.

How the New-Look Roster Breaks Down

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    Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen have refreshed last season's losing team in key areas.
    Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen have refreshed last season's losing team in key areas.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Washington's new team of shot-callers has refreshed the roster in crucial areas. Extra bodies have been added to the linebacker rotation, particularly in the middle.

    Three free agents, Darryl Sharpton, Adam Hayward and Akeem Jordan, will compete to start alongside Perry Riley Jr. On the outside, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan will be under less pressure to shoulder the pass-rushing burden, following the arrival of second-round pick Trent Murphy.

    Behind the linebackers, the secondary welcomes veterans Ryan Clark and Tracy Porter along with rookie Bashaud Breeland.

    Up front, ex-Dallas Cowboys star Jason Hatcher joins a list of incumbents headlined by nose tackle Barry Cofield. In reserve, undrafted free agent Robert Thomas faces a fight to make the roster.

    Similar to inside linebacker, the offensive line has received help with quantity rather than overwhelming quality. Veteran pros Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn join rookies Spencer Long and Morgan Moses as the new blood.

    The quarterback and running back positions will share change at the third-string level. But things will look a lot different at wide receiver, where new arrivals Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson will both have prominent roles.

    Throw in fifth-round draft choice Ryan Grant, and this is likely to be one of the deepest positions on Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen's roster.

    Speaking of depth, it will be most obvious on the special teams. The completely remade unit is likely to feature two new starting specialists and a host of new faces in the coverage units.


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    Robert Griffin III needs to rebound from a mediocre second season under center.
    Robert Griffin III needs to rebound from a mediocre second season under center.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Robert Griffin III remains the signal-caller of choice in D.C. That's only natural given the investment the team made in 2012's second overall selection.

    But Griffin will be under some pressure to rebound from a mediocre second season under center. Being a year on from knee surgery and surrounded with a host of talented weapons means excuses will be in short supply if Griffin can't deliver.

    Failure to do so would thrust Kirk Cousins into the spotlight. Washington ensured Cousins is still around by rejecting a proposed trade by the Cleveland Browns, per Cleveland.com writer Mary Kay Cabot, citing CBS Sports reporter Jason La Canfora.

    Speaking of Cleveland, Washington signed one-time Browns starter Colt McCoy to be used in emergencies only. He will beat rookie free agent Tommy Rees for the right to hold the clipboard.

Running Back

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    Two-time 1,000-yard rusher Alfred Morris will continue to lead the ground game.
    Two-time 1,000-yard rusher Alfred Morris will continue to lead the ground game.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Alfred Morris remains the clear leader of a deep and exciting running back rotation. The two-time 1,000-yard rusher will continue to wear down defenses.

    But behind Morris, the rotation will be changed by this year's sixth-round choice, Lache Seastrunk. Gruden suggested the lightning-fast, change-of-pace runner will act as "a great complement for Roy [Helu Jr.] and Alfred [Morris]," per CSN Washington reporter Tarik El-Bashir.

    That should spell the end for 2011 sixth-rounder Evan Royster and last season's fifth-round pick, Chris Thompson. Rookie free agent Silas Redd will also struggle to avoid the final cut.

    Expect Darrel Young to round out this group, even though Gruden doesn't normally rely on a fullback. But Young is an underrated inside runner and a capable receiver out of the backfield.

    Those skills, along with some use on special teams, will be enough to keep the converted linebacker in town.

Wide Receiver

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    DeSean Jackson has brought his Pro Bowl-level talents to Washington.
    DeSean Jackson has brought his Pro Bowl-level talents to Washington.USA TODAY Sports

    Wide receiver has experienced as much change as any position group on the roster. The team has kept adding and adding to its numbers in this area.

    Allen and Gruden signed a pair of veterans, drafted a newcomer and agreed to deals with four undrafted pass-catchers. Yet despite Gruden's background as a quarterback and offensive coordinator, he'll need to trim the options ahead of the final cut.

    The starters essentially pick themselves. Jackson will pose a major threat on one side, while record-setter Pierre Garcon works the other.

    That will leave the versatile Andre Roberts to occupy the vital third-receiver role, one that suits the 26-year-old's ability to thrive over the middle and on the outside.

    Aging yet still effective Santana Moss was retained along with youngster Aldrick Robinson. Their competition for the fourth spot could heat up as the start of the new season nears.

    Both are diminutive burners, but 34-year-old Moss has clearly lost a step. If both make the roster, then brittle and inconsistent Leonard Hankerson certainly won't.

    His position has been put under greater threat by the decision to draft Ryan Grant. A natural possession receiver, Grant could establish his niche as a slot specialist, something this offense currently lacks.

    That would spell the end for a player like Nick Williams, an undrafted free agent a year ago. Speaking of undrafted talent, big-bodied flankers Cody Hoffman, Kofi Hughes and Rashad Lawrence are intriguing prospects.

    If both Robinson and Moss stick, only one of this trio will make the roster. At 6'4" and 223 pounds, Hoffman has the best chance.

    He fits the mold of bigger, more physical receivers that Gruden has favored throughout his coaching career.

    The final group should consist of Garcon, Jackson and Roberts backed up by Moss, Robinson, Grant and Hoffman.

Tight End

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    Jordan Reed should enjoy a fine second season.
    Jordan Reed should enjoy a fine second season.USA TODAY Sports

    Jordan Reed is the obvious starter here. The 2013 third-rounder possesses the move skills and natural dynamism to torment any level of a defense.

    No other tight end on the roster can expand the playbook for Gruden the way Reed can. Although Logan Paulsen is limited, he will stick around to play deputy, not least because of Reed's durability issues.

    He missed seven games with various ailments as a rookie, so the Washington offense needs credible cover at the position. Paulsen can provide it, although Niles Paul's days are likely numbered.

    The selection of seventh-round pick Ted Bolser should see to that. He can assume Paul's role as third tight end and special teams utility man.

Offensive Line

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    Morgan Moses can be a rookie starter at right tackle.
    Morgan Moses can be a rookie starter at right tackle.USA TODAY Sports

    The O-line needs to look a lot different this season after surrendering 43 sacks in 2013. Thankfully, things will look different, starting on the right side.

    That's where third-round pick Morgan Moses can usurp uninspiring veteran Tyler Polumbus. Moses is a good fit for Gruden's new-look O-line thanks to his combination of size and power.

    So is fellow third-rounder Spencer Long, although it is a little too early to expect him to supplant right guard Chris Chester. The ex-Baltimore Ravens swing lineman is on thin ice though, and Long will be ready to pounce.

    Over on the left, rapidly improving tackle Trent Williams will be joined by free agent Shawn Lauvao who will slot in at guard. The former Cleveland Browns starter will add more size to an interior trio that was pushed around too easily last season.

    The final change involves one-time starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger switching to center. A highly skilled run-blocker, Lichtensteiger can make a positive impression at a position that was a major weakness in 2013.

    As for depth, Long will be joined by holdover swing tackle Tom Compton unless Polumbus is kept as chief deputy. There will also be room for utility lineman Mike McGlynn, signed from the Indianapolis Colts. The 6'4", 325-pounder will provide cover at both guard and tackle.

    Don't be surprised to see the team part company with disappointing 2012 draft picks Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis. The latter will be hamstrung by his lack of imposing size, given Gruden's preference for bigger linemen when he ran the offense for the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The new regime has managed to strengthen both depth and starting quality along the offensive front. That bodes well for the new season.

Defensive Line

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    Jason Hatcher will boost the D-line's ability to get after quarterbacks.
    Jason Hatcher will boost the D-line's ability to get after quarterbacks.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last season's defense managed a paltry 36 sacks, largely due to the line's inability to generate consistent pressure. That will change this term, following the arrival of former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowler Jason Hatcher.

    The player who notched 11 sacks in 2013 was a major get for a rebuilding franchise. The 31-year-old will slot in at one defensive position.

    The other will feature an intriguing battle between big Chris Baker and 2011 second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins. Expect Baker, re-signed in one of the first moves by the post-Mike Shanahan regime, to win the job.

    He will join Hatcher to flank nose tackle Barry Cofield. The ex-New York Giants linchpin will be better this campaign one year removed from the hand injury he suffered last preseason.

    The Redskins will carry a lot of linemen as depth, headlined by Jenkins and veteran Kedric Golston. Free agent Clifton Geathers and undrafted rookie Robert Thomas are two huge bodies who should shove 2011 seventh-rounder Chris Neild through the exit door. He will be joined by Doug Worthington.

    But the most interesting decision regards Stephen Bowen. The 30-year-old is recovering from microfracture surgery and carries a cap hit of just over $7 million, per Spotrac.

    Bowen is still a very solid 3-4 end, but he faces a tough task to make the final roster.


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    Akeem Jordan will be tasked with replacing London Fletcher.
    Akeem Jordan will be tasked with replacing London Fletcher.Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    The outside linebacker position remains strong thanks to the presence of bookend pass-rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The duo could be even more destructive this season after defensive coordinator Jim Haslett revealed he plans to "turn them loose," per ESPN.com reporter John Keim.

    Depth behind the starting pair has been boosted by the arrival of Murphy and the decision to re-sign Rob Jackson. Those factors are likely to push last season's fifth-rounder, Brandon Jenkins, off the roster.

    There are understandably more questions on the inside following London Fletcher's retirement. At least Perry Riley Jr. is still around to man one spot.

    It will be between Akeem Jordan, Darryl Sharpton and Adam Hayward to occupy the other. Jordan should win the job after starting 10 games in the Kansas City Chiefs' 3-4 scheme in 2013.

    Sharpton and Hayward will join talented but brittle youngster Keenan Robinson to offer quality depth and help on special teams. That should mean no room for Will Compton or Jeremy Kimbrough.


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    Tracy Porter will help out in the slot.
    Tracy Porter will help out in the slot.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    DeAngelo Hall was one of the few members of last season's pass defense who could judge his performances with some pride. The Pro Bowler will take one starting position on the outside.

    The other will be contested by veteran Tracy Porter and 2013 second-round pick David Amerson. The latter could have the edge given his greater size.

    But the 6'1", 205-pounder still needs to refine his overall technique. If Amerson does start, Porter will man the slot.

    Able support will come from this year's fourth-round draft selection, Bashaud Breeland. The ex-Clemson ace will make an impact in sub-package schemes.

    E.J. Biggers will round out a solid rotation, meaning there is likely to be little room for Richard Crawford or Chase Minnifield.


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    Ryan Clark's experience will be vital to the defensive backfield.
    Ryan Clark's experience will be vital to the defensive backfield.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Even at 34, Ryan Clark's experience and guile as the deep-lying quarterback of the secondary will prove vital in 2014. He will be joined by fellow veteran Brandon Meriweather, who would be a competent starter if he could ever quell his reckless tackling.

    Reserve strength should be provided by recently reinstated Tanard Jackson and 2013 fourth-round choice Phillip Thomas. The latter missed his rookie campaign thanks to a Lisfranc injury but is a player of real potential.

    Bacarri Rambo and Akeem Davis will vie for the last spot. Give Rambo the early nod, but there won't be much in it.

    This was the weakest position on 2013's roster, but Clark's arrival and the return of Thomas and Jackson can make a positive impact.

Special Teams

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    Seventh-round pick Zach Hocker should win the job at place-kicker.
    Seventh-round pick Zach Hocker should win the job at place-kicker.USA TODAY Sports

    No unit on the roster has undergone as much change as the special teams. A massive regeneration is only natural following a series of calamitous performances in 2013.

    It will be all change in the kicking game, where seventh-round pick Zach Hocker should take over from Kai Forbath. Hocker was new special teams coach Ben Kotwica's "favorite" kicker in the draft, per ESPN 980 reporter Chris Russell:

    #Redskins Jay Gruden says Ben Kotwicka's favorite PK was Hocker and stressed competition. Called Ted Bolsner a "war daddy" on ST's KO cover

    — Chris Russell (@Russellmania980) May 10, 2014

    Kotwica's familiarity with Robert Malone should see the former New York Jets roster member assume the punting chores after the necessary departure of Sav Rocca.

    The coverage units could actually be fun to watch this season. The likes of Sharpton, Hayward and Jordan are all noted for their expertise in this area.

    Meanwhile, Ted Bolser has been described as a "war daddy" chasing down kicks by Gruden, according to Brian McNally of The Washington Times. Expect fellow rookie Breeland to also play a key role here.

    Allen and Gruden have done a lot of work fixing an area that was a disaster last season. Already the unit looks a lot stronger.

    Greater strength in depth is a theme of this new-look roster. It will help Washington be much more competitive in this season's NFC East race.