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Instant Analysis: Redskins Cut to 53

Our top story tonight: the 2010 Redskins are a team.  A team of 53 players.  Aside from a few surprise inclusions that can be counted on one hand, the Redskins stayed true to their tendencies when picking the right balance of players for the roster.

The surprises were less about individual players chosen, and more surprising in the general sense.  Guys like Terrence Austin, Erik Cook, and Selvish Capers might be important parts of the Redskins in the future, but as of today, they are not Redskins.  Of the six draft choices made in the 2010 draft, only two made it through today to actually become rookies.  That’s a shockingly low number.  The last year Mike Shanahan didn’t have all players or all-but-one player make his opening day roster from his draft class: 2003.  More than seven years ago.

Is this necessarily a bad thing?  I don’t see it that way.  It’s not common for a 6th or 7th round pick to turn into a starter, even after significant development.  While the expectation is that these players will make the roster in their first year, it’s not shameful that they didn’t.  The Redskins did very well with their undrafted free agents on offense.  Brandon Banks beat out Terrence Austin.  Kory Lichtensteiger beat out Erik Cook.  Logan Paulsen beat out Dennis Morris.  While Selvish Capers simply didn’t prove to be NFL caliber, at least on the outside, the fact that the Redskins found three freely available players who proved to be more than that in this preseason is big time.  And that doesn’t even include undrafted rookie RB Keiland Williams, who beat out veteran Willie Parker to make the Redskins.

Dennis Morris’ pick was probably wasted, as many felt at the time (before his B.M.O.C. highlight reel surfaced).  But after that, the Redskins only had three picks in the first six rounds anyway: that’s where this draft was lost.  Kudos to our experienced decision makers for not trying to put third round expectations on a trio of seventh round picks.

The actual roster is very balanced, but I have one specific criticism (and various other criticisms as well) of the way it was built.  That will be taken care of below:

Quarterbacks (3): Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck

McNabb was obvious.  Grossman is seen by this staff as much more of a 1a type player than a no. 2.  They would have no qualms starting him for long periods of time.  Grossman is ballzy, but his mistakes would likely frustrate Redskins fans as he can often make the efforts of his defense futile by making mistakes that result in long defensive returns and short fields.  There’s a level of hubris here with the Shanahan’s that make them feel as if they can coach around these mistakes, but this is professional football.  You’re taking the bad with the good whether you intend to or not.  I am not sure why John Beck got extended, but that transaction ensured his presence on the roster.  He’s the anti-Grossman, who is much more likely to hold it and take a sack than make an ill-advised throw.

Running Backs (5): Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Keiland Williams, Mike Sellers, Darryl Young

Mike Shanahan is very good at keeping his effective running backs in the game, so while Williams would be buried below Johnson on many teams, he’s likely to get that playing time if he outperforms him.  Darryl Young is going to be an important part of this special teams unit, and Mike Sellers as well, so both will be active on gamedays.  In fact, all five are likely to play in the game against Dallas.

Wide Receivers (6): Santana Moss, Joey Galloway, Roydell Williams, Anthony Armstrong, Devin Thomas, Brandon Banks

There are a lot of options for Donovan McNabb to use here.  It’s unclear what, if anything, Joey Galloway can still do.  What’s more clear is that Roydell Williams and Anthony Armstrong were among McNabb’s favorite (non-Cooley) receivers in the preseason.  Neither attended “Hell Week” in Arizona.  Devin Thomas looked good on special teams, and perhaps ever. so. barely. outplayed Terrence Austin in that role to win a roster spot.  Thomas wasn’t just on the block — he was on the very edge of the plank — but he made it through, and for the first time in his career, did deserve it.  Brandon Banks is an absolute flash who could break games wide open or cost the Redskins a few games with mistakes.  He’s not a meaningless player by any means.  He just might be the ‘X’ factor in the NFC East.

Tight Ends (3): Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen

It might have ended up being just Cooley and Davis, if not for the fact that the Redskins were about to run into a logistical issue.  The plan was to make Kory Lichtenstiger a tight end in certain power packages, but Lichtenstieger is now a THREE position backup.  More on this below.  He also might now be the best right guard on the roster.  Which is another problem.  He can’t be a package player, so Paulsen, who is a blocking TE, is going to get the nod to play some special teams, as well as TE in short yardage and goal line.  As a bonus, Paulsen can also play offensive line (tackle) in a real pinch.  He’s a good keeper.

Offensive Line (8): Trent Williams, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Artis Hicks, Jamaal Brown, Kory Lichtensteiger, Stephon Heyer, Will Montgomery

Oh, boy.  Well, the Redskins turned over half of their roster at OL from last year.  But they retained two of the worst offenders on last years line, Rabach and Montgomery.  Stephon Heyer, by all accounts is much improved, and will probably play a lot this year with Jamaal Brown expected to be in and out of the lineup all year.  RT shouldn’t be much of an issue.  LT will be as good as Trent Williams is, and no better.  Derrick Dockery and Casey Rabach both have great bills of health, but may be weaknesses on the interior, especially against NFC East defensive fronts.  Artis Hicks offers versatility, but is as marginal of a starter as Rabach is.

The saving grace was supposed to be all the young, talented lineman who may not have been ready to start just yet, but could hedge against the ineffectiveness of the center or the right guard.  Lichtenstieger was the most impressive of that group, but Edwin Williams, Chad Rinehart, Erik Cook, and Selvish Capers all offered hope of a late-season find who could help this team in the chase for the playoffs.  Inexplicably, the Redskins cut every last one of them, and kept Will Montgomery.  Once again, depth is a major issue on the offensive line, and while we have five lineman who should be durable in the starting lineup, consider what will happen if Lichtensteiger wins that RG job in week five or something.  Will Montgomery becomes the backup player at the C and LG positions.  That’s really terrible planning, and more likely than not, will cost this team in the long run.

Defensive Line (8): Adam Carriker, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Kedric Golston, Albert Haynesworth, Vonnie Holliday, Phillip Daniels, Anthony Bryant, Jeremy Jarmon

Bryant holding on to a roster spot was a little surprising, but the Redskins can’t seem to count on Albert Haynesworth to be a major part of this defense.  Certainly, he will be, but they have to plan almost as if he isn’t there as not to be caught off guard if he gives up on them.  That could by why Bryant is there: Kemoeatu has looked bad, just very bad, in the preseason.  It may take him some time to return to form.  The team is a little stronger at end, but Carriker is an injury concern.  Golston could be the best all around player on the DL, but might lose snaps to Vonnie Holliday who still just makes plays when he’s in the game for 8-12 snaps per game.  Phillip Daniels could find himself inactive a lot this year, and is on the roster as much for leadership as anything else.

Linebackers (8): London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, Andre Carter, Rocky McIntosh, Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson, HB Blades, Perry Riley

No surprises here.  Robert Henson appeared to have the roster made as a special teams ace, but when his knee was injured, the Redskins replaced him with a fifth corner, Byron Westbrook, instead.  All of these guys can play defense, and all will be active for gameday either due to special teams obligations, or dual ability to line up on the defensive front and get after the passer on third downs.  These were clearly the eight best defensive players listed at their position.

Defensive Backs (9): Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall, LaRon Landry, Phillip Buchanon, Kevin Barnes, Byron Westbrook, Reed Doughty, Chris Horton, Kareem Moore

The Redskins opted to trade Justin Tryon to the Colts for a roster spot to use on Byron Westbrook.  That was a little bit surprising.  Tryon is a much better defensive player, and I really didn’t think there was much of a special teams advantage.  If there was, Tryon had that as well.  The Redskins get some sort of a compensation pick for Tryon, so it’s not all bad to find a team that likes your player more than you do.  It’s a bit surprising that Westbrook beat out Ramzee Robinson, but I also believe that the Redskins aren’t done shopping at this position just yet, and Westbrook’s stay on this year’s 53 man might not last until the first game.  He’s week to week.  Reed Doughty, Chris Horton, and Kareem Moore are really good depth at safety.  Moore could be out for the first three weeks of the season, which caused some to presume the Redskins might keep a fifth safety.  They will not.

Specialists (3): LS Nick Sundberg, K Graham Gano, P Josh Bidwell

Keep a watchful eye on Sundberg’s snaps, but this has a chance to be our best kicking specialist unit in years.  Graham Gano really has a great leg.  Our special teams has more true weapons — between Banks and Gano — than it has ever had in the past before.

The Redskins likely aren’t done at receiver.  Roydell Williams probably shouldn’t feel very safe.  He could be released if the Redskins find a better offensive player than him on the waiver wire.  However, it’s likely for financial reasons that this will be the group that plays against the Cowboys next Sunday night.  Then veterans can be signed without guaranteeing their entire yearly salary for their work.  One week could decide the Galloway/Williams camp battle, once and for all.

This trade for a receiver could go down as soon as tomorrow. Hog Heaven will have you covered if and when an agreement is reached.