The Redskins will report to training camp on July 25. Over the next five weeks they will undergo the process of cutting their 90-man roster down to 53. Which players will get those coveted spots and which will join the ranks of the unemployed? Over the next couple of weeks we’ll go through position by position and try to predict what decisions Mike Shanahan and company will make.
There are 15 defensive backs on the roster, the Redskins will keep nine.
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Cedric Griffin, Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield
Safety: Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams, DeJon Gomes
Out: Kevin Barnes, Brandyn Thompson, Morgan Trent, Jordan Bernstine, Travon Bellamy, Reed Doughty
Changes from 2011: LaRon Landry signed with Jets as a free agent, O. J. Atogwe was released, signed with Eagles, Byron Westbrook not resigned; Signed Griffin, Meriweather, Jackson, Williams, and Trent as free agents, drafted Crawford and Bernstine (both 7th round), signed Minnifield as undrafted free agent.
This is the “extreme makeover” edition of The 53. The secondary may be better than it was last year or it may be worse but it seems certain that it will be very different. The Redskins are guaranteed to have two new starting safeties in the wake of the departures of both Landry and Atogwe. It appears that they are ready to bring in a whole new batch of nickel and dime backs and depth players.
Hall and Wilson will be the staring corners. Barnes was the nickel back for the first 13 games of last season before the now-departed Westbrook started to get most of the nickel snaps at the end of the year. Griffin was signed to be the nickel back and the team may be ready to move on from Barnes after three years and give Minnifield and Crawford a shot. The rookies stood out during OTA’s and minicamp and if they can replicate that performance when the pads go on it will be hard to keep them off of the roster.
Thompson is in the mix as well. He is athletic enough to be the playmaker that the Redskins are looking for at the position. Thompson bounced between the active roster and the practice squad all year and they only played him four snaps on defense, however, and he will have to show that he can earn some playing time if he is going to stick around for a second season.
If they decide that they would rather not go strictly with youth for depth, Trent could stick around. He bounced around with three teams last year but he does have 36 games of NFL experience under his belt including three starts.
One wild card in the mix is Westbrook. He remains unsigned. Word was that the Redskins offered him a three-year deal but he thought he might be able to get a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere. If he is still looking after a week or so of camp there could be a reunion between the 26-year-old, who has been with the organization since 2007, and the Redskins.
At safety, the 30-year-old Williams was not guaranteed a roster spot when he signed as a free agent but he worked his way into great position to grab one during the offseason. With Jackson limited as he recovers from a shoulder injury Williams spent a lot of time with the first unit and his play and leadership drew a lot of praise.
However, Mike Shanahan said over and over that safety was one of two positions (along with running back) that are very difficult to judge without pads on. It would not be surprising at all to see Bernstine earn a spot over Williams or Gomes or to see Doughty survive one again.
It is also possible that Bernstine or Doughty could make it as a fifth safety. They went with four most of last year so they could do so again. Or maybe they will go with nine linebackers instead of the 10 I projected and keep another safety. Or perhaps the additional defensive back spot will go to Barnes, who could be a reserve at both corner and safety.
In: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson, Markus White, Chris Wilson, London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Lorenzo Alexander, Keenan Robinson, Jonathan Goff
Out: Donnell Holt, Bryan Kehl, Brian McNally, Monte Lewis
In: Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins, Adam Carriker, Kedric Golston, Barry Cofield, Chris Neild
Out: Darrion Scott, Kentwan Balmer, Doug Worthington, Chris Baker, Delvin Johnson
In (4): Roy Helu Jr., Tim Hightower, Evan Royster, Darrell Young
Out: Tristan Davis, Alfred Morris, Antwon Bailey, Lennon Creer
In (3): Fred Davis, Niles Paul, Chris Cooley
Out: Logan Paulsen, Richard Quinn, Beau Reliford
In (6): Anthony Armstrong, Pierre Garçon, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson
Out: Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin, Darius Hanks, Brian Hernandez, Lance Lewis, Samuel Kirkland
In (3): Robert Griffin III, Rex Grossman, Kirk Cousins
Out: Jonathan Crompton
In (9): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Jammal Brown, Willie Smith, Tyler Polumbus, Josh LeRibeus, Tom Compton
Out: Erik Cook, Grant Garner, Adam Gettis, Maurice Hurt, Nevin McCaskill, James Lee, Nick Martinez