Predicting Washington Redskins' First Wave of Roster Cuts
If you were Jay Gruden, who would you cut?
That's the discussion in place as the new head coach looks to trim his 90-man roster down to 75. Brandon Jenkins was the first of the Mike Shanahan draft picks to go, as last year's fifth-round choice struggled to take the next stage in his development.
This was perhaps a surprising choice, but also set the stall out early: Underachievers will be shown the door.
With this in mind, let's take a look at who could be the casualties of the first wave of roster cuts, grouped together by probability.
Almost Certain to Be Cut
This first wave of roster cuts is unlikely to be full of surprises. This means we can expect to see names like defensive end Frank Kearse, safety Trenton Robinson and wide receivers Rashad Lawrence and Rashad Ross.
Players who were never expected to make it, basically.
Another receiver who drifted into this category was Jerry Rice Jr. Rice suffered a torn labrum and will require surgery, which left the coaches with a few options, ranging from placing him immediately on injured reserve to waiving him entirely.
Rice was always a long shot to make the roster, but this injury really hurt his progress. Although Tarik El-Bashir reported for CSN Washington that Gruden "hinted that the team would like to put the Hall of Famer’s son on injured reserve," it's difficult to see that happening. The Redskins waived Rice on Sunday evening, so it's a waiting game for him now.
Washington has good depth at receiver, and keeping Rice around would likely deny a more talented player a space. It may seem cruel, but that's the reality Rice faces right now.
Good Possibility of Being Cut
When Washington released long snapper Kyle Nelson, they signed tight end Mike Caussin, formerly of the Buffalo Bills. Although Caussin is a good size—at 6'5", he offers valuable height in the red zone—there just doesn't seem to be any room for him in D.C.
It's likely that Caussin was brought in as a camp body, in case of injury to either Logan Paulsen or Niles Paul, but there's no real chance that he beats them out otherwise. Jordan Reed is the starter, but if he was to pick up a moderate injury, Caussin would be discarded in favor of a more dynamic player.
Rookie Ted Bolser might have been deemed worthy of a draft pick, but has done absolutely nothing to impress in camp so far. The tight end has dropped passes, struggled with his blocking and failed to gain separation on his routes. It might seem unlikely that he'll be cut in the first wave, but if he hasn't shown any improvement, the practice squad beckons.
Center Tevita Stevens is another such candidate. Stevens returns for a second year with the Redskins, having spent 2013 on the practice squad. He's a good guy to have around in case of injury, but isn't going to make the 53. If he can show improvement he could take the next step in 2015, but he's not ready just yet.
Wide receiver Lee Doss faces a huge battle to stay with the team. Suddenly blessed with a really good crop of receivers, Doss is going to have to excel in special teams and when he gets the chance to contribute on offense. He may make it through the first wave of cuts, but is unlikely to go much further than that. There's just too many players ahead of him, including undrafted free agent Cody Hoffman. Hoffman's size gives him the advantage over his UFA compatriots, and could even see him sneak on the roster.
On the Bubble
Washington would be smart to use Darrel Young more than they did last year, as he has proven both consistency and ability. Where that leaves Stephen Campbell is another matter.
While Campbell has versatility, having played fullback, tight end and long snapper, there's not really any room for him at any of those positions.
If he can prove to be a force on special teams then there could be a place for him, but the chances of Washington—or any team for that matter—carrying two fullbacks in Week 1 is almost zero.
Campbell is likely to last a little longer, but don't get too attached to him.
Clifton Geathers is someone who has the chance to make the roster, but has to immediately use the time available to him. The Redskins' defensive line has had its share of injuries already, so Geathers has been able to enjoy more reps that he would have expected.
However, with players like Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher returning, Geathers will get further and further from the first team. At 6'8" and 340 pounds, Geathers is someone who should offer a huge amount to this team. He's surprisingly nimble and athletic, but the fact remains that he has already been cut from six NFL teams in four years. There's obviously something wrong, and getting beaten by rookie Spencer Long won't help his chances.
While we can amuse ourselves with the discussion of using him as a goal-line back, it's unlikely that he remains on the roster by Week 1.
Outside Chance of Being Cut
At some point, there's likely to be a linebacker cull in Washington. Gruden brought in Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton but already has Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson, Jeremy Kimbrough, Adam Hayward, Gabe Miller and Will Compton on the books.
Realistically, Gruden will want to assess them all for as long as possible, so they should avoid getting cut as part of the first wave. However, there's probably only one roster spot really open for competition.
Kimbrough, Hayward, Miller and Compton will battle for it, so don't be surprised if the coaches cut one of those four at this early stage. If they feel like one is significantly behind the others, there's no point in having him around.
Another player likely to stick around a bit longer is Kevin Kowalski. The fourth-year lineman out of Toledo was signed in January, albeit to a futures contract. He has played both guard and center, which will work in his favor, but has yet to stick with an NFL team since sneaking onto the Cowboys roster in 2011 and participating in nine games.
There's little chance Kowalski makes the 53, but he's a valuable camp body who looks to have a little more to give in 2014.
Long Shot to Be Cut
While you could feasibly put most players in this category, there is still time for some surprise cuts among the more established guys.
Among them, Evan Royster looks to have his spot in jeopardy through both injury and competition. While the former Penn State standout has spent most of camp on the sideline with a hamstring injury, rookie Lache Seastrunk and 2013 pick Chris Thompson have seemingly got the jump on him.
Royster has experience in NFL situations, which his competitors lack, but he's also not shown much progression since emerging in his rookie year. It could be said that the Shanahan regime gave up on him—when talking to ESPN's John Keim, Royster obviously thought so—but the backfield is even more crowded than a year ago.
Mentioning Royster as a candidate to be cut over, say, Silas Redd seems strange, but if Gruden and staff see no future for him, it's fairer to cut him and allow him to try to catch on with a back-needy team.
Elsewhere, the battles for the punting and kicking jobs will go right to the wire, as will the cornerback spots. Preseason will determine their fates, which could yet be the case for Royster.
The lack of action at this stage, however, could cause him to drop off the radar.