Washington Redskins Depth Chart Predictions Ahead of Training Camp

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2017

Washington Redskins Depth Chart Predictions Ahead of Training Camp

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins are settled at most spots along the depth chart ahead of the start of training camp at the end of July in Bon Secours, Richmond, Virginia.

    In particular, things are set at quarterback, tight end and along the offensive line. Where the question marks occur are at those positions refreshed by new personnel this offseason.

    It means a picture still needs to settle on the defensive line, in the secondary, at wide receiver and running back. Fortunately, the combination of draft picks and free agents added at those positions means the depth charts for these spots already look stronger than a year ago.

    The increase in talent will allow head coach Jay Gruden and his staff to put a group well-equipped to return to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons through its paces at this year's camp.

    Find out how the Redskins' depth chart might look like after training camp.


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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld


    The order of the options pick themselves at quarterback, even with Kirk Cousins yet to sign a new long-term contract. Cousins remains the unquestioned starter thanks to the strides he has made since taking the starting job in 2015.

    Those strides include setting a host of franchise records and reaching a first Pro Bowl. Cousins has quickly become the intelligent and effective pocket-based passer Gruden needs to make his version of the west coast offense work.

    It's little wonder No. 8 is content to stay patient in the waiting game over signing a new contract before the deadline on July 17. Cousins has made it clear he will keep his mind on other things, per Mitch Brown of News 3 (h/t CBS DC's and 106.7 The Fan's Brian Tinsman):

    "I hired my agent to do his job. I’ve got to go play football and throw touchdown passes and help our team win. I’ve got plenty to work on there, so I’ll let my agent do his job, I’ll do mine. The good news is that I’m under contract for this season. I’m just taking it in stride and enjoying the summer break. My agent will handle it and we’ll see where we are."

    Cousins will be ready to play even if it means performing under a franchise tag for the second season running.   

    At least the Redskins have the security of knowing they have a capable backup in Colt McCoy. The 30-year-old veteran will remain ahead of untested Nate Sudfeld in the pecking order.  

Running Back

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown


    The backfield will have a slightly different look after Samaje Perine was added in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft. However, at least initially, 2016 starter Rob Kelley should lead the way.

    Undrafted a year ago, Kelley did enough to take the starting job from fumble-prone Matt Jones last season. As for Jones, his old agent asked for him to be released, per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press, before the player hired Drew Rosenhaus to represent him.

    However, Rick Snider of the Washington Post believes it makes sense for the Redskins to keep the runner they considered trading during the draft, at least for training camp: "Jones, who is under contract through 2018, is still a solid Plan B should Kelley suffer an injury in the preseason."

    Jones may stick around for camp, but he's unlikely to be on the final depth chart, not when there are so many options ahead of him. Aside from Kelley, Perine is sure to make waves as another tough and durable inside runner who can work over defenses between the tackles.

    Meanwhile, Chris Thompson is a lock thanks to his niche as a third-down back. He could even offer more as a ball-carrier this season.

    If Washington carries four backs on the final depth chart, Mack Brown is a good bet to be the spare man. Like Thompson, he offers a true breakaway threat and the speed to be a natural complement to the power of Kelly and Perine.

Wide Receiver

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Brian Quick, Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris


    Even after losing both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, the Redskins are as well-stocked at wide receiver as any team in the league, at least in terms of numbers.

    In fairness, there is quality, too, with 1,000-yard receiver Terrelle Pryor set to lead the way. Pryor hit triple digits in his lone season as a pro wideout in 2016.

    Considering he managed the feat with the dubious assistance of the quarterback carousel on the 1-15 Cleveland Browns, Pryor's ceiling is sky high thanks to the superior supporting cast he'll enjoy in Washington.

    Jamison Crowder will be a key member of the supporting cast, as Gruden gets ready to expand the role of a player who caught 67 passes for 847 yards last season, per Mark Bullock of the Washington Post"He can play outside, inside. He can play running back probably if he wanted to. So we'll utilize Jamison and try to get him more involved, not just in the passing game and the running game."

    Crowder appears primed to be Washington's version of New England Patriots star Julian Edelman. In other words, he'll be a prolific slot receiver who will also stretch coverage on the outside, while getting the ball in a variety of ways.

    It's after Pryor and Crowder where questions abound among this position group. One of the biggest concerns is Josh Doctson, the Burgundy and Gold's first-round pick last year.

    Doctson appeared in just two games as a rookie, but he has shown hints of being a dynamic vertical threat. The former TCU product must make a quick impact in Year 2.

    Pressure is on Doctson, because Pryor's fellow free-agent signing Brian Quick is no lock to make the final roster, according to CSN Mid-Atlantic's Rich Tandler: "The Redskins signed Quick hoping that he could be an experienced, inexpensive guy down the depth chart. He was disappointing in offseason practices and he will need a strong training camp to stay around."

    Tandler also noted how Ryan Grant is a "favorite" of the head coach, while this year's sixth-round pick, Robert Davis, looked raw during offseason workouts. If Davis doesn't stick on the final roster, Maurice Harris, another big target, will.

Tight End

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Niles Paul, Jeremy Sprinkle


    If things look bountiful at wide receiver, it's nothing compared to the riches Washington boasts at tight end. The difference here is there are less question marks and more established playmakers on hand.

    Jordan Reed is the headline act as a roving weapon who can be lined up everywhere and pose a mismatch against any type of coverage. Meanwhile, Vernon Davis is still a formidable blocker and a clutch underneath target, even at 33.

    Reed and Davis will be regular features of the offense, but the Redskins can choose from three other capable options to lend support.

    Niles Paul is a "move" tight end in the mold of Reed, although far less dynamic than 2013's third-round pick. Then there's Derek Carrier and this year's fifth-rounder, Jeremy Sprinkle.

    It's no wonder position coach Wes Phillips considers this group the "best overall" in the league, per Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post. It's certainly the deepest.

    When considering who will be the supporting players to Reed and Davis, Phillips talked up rookie Sprinkle, per Tesfatsion: "I think people say (Sprinkle is) known for his blocking because he's a big guy, but he caught a lot of passes at Arkansas as well, and showed a lot of skill in the pass game as well. He's got big hands, soft hands. He can get in-and-out of breaks for a big man."

    Both Paul and Carrier will be under pressure after dealing with injury last season. However, Paul may have the overall edge, thanks to his ability to also play fullback, as well as his value on special teams, according to Jake Kring-Schreifels of the team's official website.

Offensive Line

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses

    Ty Nsekhe, Arie Kouandjio, Chase Roullier


    At least three of the five starting positions along the offensive front won't change ahead of, during or even after training camp. Left tackle Trent Williams is one of the NFL's most highly regarded and right guard Brandon Scherff is a burgeoning Pro-Bowl talent, while right tackle Morgan Moses merited the lucrative contract extension he received this offseason.

    It's after these three where things get tricky. Center is perhaps the weakest spot, with converted guard Spencer Long tasked with replacing Kory Lichtensteiger and John Sullivan.

    Long should expect to be pushed by sixth-round pick Chase Roullier during camp. Pro Football Focus analyst Mark Chichester believes Roullier has the tools to become a starter in the big league, but he'll have to prove it at Richmond.

    Left guard is a berth currently set to be occupied by Shawn Lauvao. Yet the former Cleveland Browns starter always appears on the brink of losing his job, something Arie Kouandjio could make happen. Kouandjio won in both his starts last season, according to Jake Kring-Schreifels of the team's official website.

    It's highly unlikely the Redskins will carry 10 O-linemen on the final depth chart for the season, but Ty Nsekhe is a good bet to stick ahead of Vinston Painter as a swing tackle, while rookie free agent guard Kyle Kalis faces an uphill battle to make it.

Defensive Line

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Jonathan Allen, Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee

    Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor, Joey Mbu


    It's all change along the defensive line, and thankfully so. The Redskins wisely spent this offseason remaking their options up front, beginning in free agency with the signings of Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee.

    They should wind up as starters at nose tackle and D-end, respectively. The other end spot will belong to top draft choice Jonathan Allen, the 17th-overall pick this year, with Ziggy Hood rightly brought back for depth.

    Even with so many new faces, the Redskins have been content to give incumbent options chances to impress during offseason workouts, per JP Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic: "At various times Tuesday, the D-line would have Joey Mbu lined up at defensive end with Phil Taylor working the inside and Ziggy Hood on the other side."

    How things finally shake out will depend a lot on what type of nose tackle new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky wants. Does he want a quick and light nose guard who can play in gaps like McClain did for Washington's bitter NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys? Or will Manusky prefer a bigger 0-technique, such as Phil Taylor, a player with the mass to fill gaps and occupy double teams?

    Writing for the Washington Post, Mike Jones listed the possibilities to play over center in Manusky's schemes: "Nose tackles remains a mystery for the Redskins. Look for Taylor, possibly Hood and two 2016 practice squad members, Joey Mbu and A.J. Francis to compete for that starting job."

    Mbu got most of the first-team reps during OTAs, according to Jones. Yet Hood is a capable and versatile veteran who can also play either end spot, while 6'3" and 343-pound Taylor has the size to be the mountain in the middle most base 3-4 fronts rely on.

    Jones also noted how Anthony Lanier and Matt Ioannidis could be in the mix at end.

    The bottom line here is the Redskins boast more options and greater talent in the trenches. Their plethora of linemen who can play multiple spots up front mean Washington will be set no matter which combination makes up the final depth chart after training camp.


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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    OLB: Ryan Anderson, Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, Preston Smith

    ILB: Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Will Compton, Chris Carter


    Two starting spots on the Redskins' linebacker corps should already be set, with Ryan Kerrigan a dominant pass-rusher on the outside, while new arrival Zach Brown gives the team a Pro Bowler in the middle.

    Things are trickier to predict elsewhere, even though there is a glut of talented players competing for places on the depth chart. Among them, Mason Foster should start alongside Brown, although Will Compton is set to push him all the way in what should be one of the better battles to watch during camp.

    The loser will provide excellent depth, while Chris Carter's nous on special teams ought to mean a place on the depth chart.

    There is a different question on the outside, where rookie second-round pick Ryan Anderson will be competing with three veterans. He will battle with a healthy again Junior Galette, Trent Murphy and Preston Smith.

    Galette has missed the last two seasons with Achilles injuries, but he has a proven track record as a double-digit sack artist in the pros when healthy. Murphy is coming off a career-best season after logging nine sacks in 2016, but he'll miss four games through suspension. Meanwhile, Preston Smith regressed in his second year and now faces a tough task staying relevant in a suddenly crowded rotation.

    This much competition heaps the pressure on Anderson to quickly make the grade. Fortunately, he has already earned the respect of Washington senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams, who told WTEM-AM in Washington (h/t Mark Inabinett of AL.com): "That kid Ryan Anderson, if you're going to have an alpha male in the locker room, he looks like that guy. He don't smile that much, man, but he loves to practice. He loves the game of football."

    Just like the defensive line, the Redskins have a lot of mix-and-match pieces at linebacker, so they should carry as many as nine on the depth chart.  

Defensive Backs

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    CB: Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Fabian Moreau, Kendall Fuller, Quinton Dunbar

    S: Su'a Cravens, D.J. Swearinger, Deshazor Everett, Montae Nicholson, Will Blackmon


    Perhaps no position group is as crowded ahead of training camp than defensive back. The Redskins have taken a typically scattershot approach to fixing their secondary in the last few years.

    It's a process involving draft picks, free agents, undrafted and practice squad players. A football version of chucking darts at a board to see what sticks, if you will.

    Thinning the numbers will be an arduous process, but one naturally informed by events at camp. If there is going to be a high-profile cut during camp, it's most likely to be DeAngelo Hall, the 33-year-old who has started just 13 games in three years.

    Will Blackmon has a better chance of sticking on the depth chart as a veteran defensive back who can play cornerback or safety. Blackmon's 10 years of experience will be useful in a safety rotation otherwise defined by a lack of it.

    Su'a Cravens is a second-year pro who is moving back to safety full time, while fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson is a rookie this year. Deshazor Everett hasn't started a game in two years, but has been impressing this offseason, per Diane Chesebrough of USA Today's Redskins Wire.

    The picture is easier to predict at cornerback, where Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland are the obvious starters. Third-round pick Fabian Moreau will also be in the mix, even though his recovery from a torn pectoral muscle will likely keep him out of camp.

    At least Quinton Dunbar and Kendall Fuller will be involved. The latter has caught the eye of both Gruden and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray this offseason after an injury hit rookie year, per Nora Princiotti of the Washington Times.

    Washington's cornerback rotation looks strong enough for the team not to need seventh-round draft pick Joshua Holsey, undrafted rookie Tevin Homer or Lou Young.

Special Teams

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Kicker: Dustin Hopkins

    Punter: Tress Way

    Long Snapper: Nick Sundberg


    The Redskins have retained familiar faces for the kicking game but need improvement from all three of kicker Dustin Hopkins, punter Tress Way and long snapper Nick Sundberg.

    Hopkins has the leg to be effective on kickoffs and handle long-range field goals. What he doesn't have is particularly keen accuracy, nor the nerve for clutch situations.

    His missed kicks against the Cincinnati Bengals at London's Wembley Stadium last season did as much as anything to cost Washington a playoff spot.

    As for Way, he needs to rebound after finishing near the bottom of every meaningful statistical category for punting, per the league's official website.

    Overall, the Redskins will take a stronger group into training camp this year than last. The Burgundy and Gold should be more talented along the defensive front seven and in the running game once camp is concluded.

    Improvement in those key areas will give Washington the confidence to be serious players in the NFC playoff picture once the real action begins.