The Washington Redskins’ draft last weekend has a number of veteran players looking over their shoulders as the team’s minicamp commences today in Ashburn, VA.
The NFL is a zero-sum game when it comes to players. For every rookie who comes in and wins a spot, one veteran is gone. Who will have to turn it up a notch to survive the August cut to 53?
Certainly the additions of Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas is not good news for free agent signees such as Billy McMullen and Jerome Mathis, although the latter might be able to stay on as a kick returner.
The departure of Reche Caldwell via free agency opens up one roster spot. The other will come at the expense of either Anthony Mix or James Thrash. Those two will battle it out for the fifth and final spot.
It will be a classic battle of youth vs. experience. Thrash’s chances of survival are hurt by the fact that Mix is an excellent special teams player, a quality that has kept Thrash employed for the past few years.
It may come down to whether or not Jim Zorn is comfortable with having three receivers behind Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El with a grand total of three NFL receptions.
Tyler Ecker, a 2007 seventh-round draft pick, spent last year on injured reserve and he won’t participate in minicamp due to another injury. That’s not good news for his longshot chances of making the team. Barring a trade or unanticipated signing, you can take a Sharpie and put in Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, and Todd Yoder in the tight end section of the depth chart.
The five projected starters, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas, Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels and Pete Kendall, are safe as long as their health holds out (a problematic notion for Jansen and Kendall). There likely are nine O-line spots so that leaves Chad Rinehart, Todd Wade, Stephon Heyer and Jason Fabini. Rinehart slides into the spot that Mike Pucillo, who is still unsigned as a free agent, vacates.
The only suspense here will come from undrafted free agent Kerry Brown. The Appalachian State product might give Fabini a run for his money as a backup guard. Fabini will be 34 before the season starts but he did a decent job filling in for the injured Thomas for most of the 2007 season. The more likely scenario has Brown going to the practice squad to get ready to make a run at the roster in 2009.
Justin Tyron becomes the ninth cornerback on the roster and the team probably will keep five. Cedrick Holt and Eddie Jackson are probably camp fodder. Shawn Springs, Fred Smoot, and Carlos Rogers aren’t going anywhere, although Rogers may start the year on the PUP list. That leaves Leigh Torrence, who finished last year as the nickel back, John Eubanks, Byron Westbrook, a 2007 practice squad member, and Tyron going for two roster spots. Should Tyron make it it would be at the expense of either Torrence or Eubanks.
Besides wide receiver, this is the only position where the Redskins drafted multiple players. They have a spot for both Kareem Moore and Chris Horton. With the departures of Pierson Prioleau and Omar Stoutmire, the team has just three safeties on the roster in LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty, and Vernon Fox. Since they could carry as many as five, nobody will have to be cut.
The coaches could decide to carry just three if they want to carry, say, a return specialist. In that case either Moore or Horton could be practice squad bound. Fox isn’t a 100% lock, but Greg Blache probably wants veteran depth at the position.
You don’t spend a draft choice on a punter if you don’t fully expect him to beat out your incumbent. Derrick Frost is toast.
Sam Hollenbach’s best hope is that Colt Brennan has to spend the ’08 season on injured reserve. Otherwise he’s gone and Brennan is the No. 3 QB.
Rob Jackson faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. He’s unlikely to displace Demetric Evans as the third DE and should the team decide to keep a fourth he’ll have to battle Alex Buzbee, a 2007 practice squad member.