The other guys: Redskins to start 21 non-QBs

Hard to believe, but other starting lineup and roster battles besides QB will occur for the Washington Redskins Saturday night in Baltimore.

The Washington Redskins quarterback drama overwhelmed our lives over the last week even beyond the usual norm. Lest we forget what's going on with the other 21 starting spots plus those competiting for jobs on the final 53-man roster, here's a reminder of what else we'd be focusing Saturday night in Baltimore on during simpler times.

Last tight end standing

Much of the dread talk following the preseason opener focused on the injuries taking out all the primary options. Niles Paul (ankle) and Logan Paulsen (toe) are done for the year, leaving Jordan Reed is the lone projected Week 1 option still around and missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury. Reed is expected to face the Ravens. Considering how much this team throws to the TE, Washington needs a viable pass-catching option, which makes Reed's status borderline critical especially considering the uncertainty behind him. Newly acquired Derek Carrier, the favorite for the No. 2 job, is expected to receive plenty of snaps. Je'Ron Hamm, D.J. Williams, Chase Dixon and Devin Mahina are among the group in the mix for the likely third and final TE slot.

Bring protection

We can ponder who receives what percentage of the blame for all the hits taken by Robert Griffin III in last week's preseason game. We can't ignore that the offensive line looked shaky at times, including first-round pick and starting right guard Brandon Scherff. Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy are traditional pocket passers. That means they need enough room to stand and scan downfield, adjust their feet, plant and fire -- in a timely manner. The shakiness also extends to the run game, particulary on first down. All signs point to Washington's identity being a ground-and-pound team. Seeing Alfred Morris and Matt Jones running cleanly before reaching the line of scrimmage against a stingy Baltimore defense would boost the offense almot regardless of the QB circus.

Safety dance

Once upon a time there was a suppossed battle for the starting safety job between Duke Ihenacho and Jeron Johnson. Except that Ihenacho joined the first unit during mini-camp, maintained his starting status into training camp and ultmately never received a challenge as Johnson missed time with injury. Ihenacho's work in the run game stood out throughout the summer. If any real competition remains, we may find out Saturday night. The secondary overall faces its biggest test of the preseason with quarterback Joe Flacco's big arm and Steve Smith's veteran moxie. 

Inside depth

Rank overall depth for any specific unit before training camp kicked off and inside linebacker likely finished at or near the bottom. Look beyond Keenan Robinson's lunchpail approach and Perry Riley Jr.'s grit. Will Compton is a roster lock, but he's been banged up during camp. From there, undrafted rookie Terrance Plummer, late-round selection Martell Spaight and Alonzo Highsmith fill out the unit. Left tackle Trent Williams is the most indespensible player on the roster. Considering the unproven depth them, Robinson and Riley cannot be far behind. Needs elsewhere will also play a factor with Washington keeping four or five inside linebackers.

Battle royale

Most of the starting spots and key reserves slots are locked up, but plenty of competition exists in the back half of the roster, including:

  • Evan Spencer and Rashad Ross vying for the sixth wide receiver spot, assuming the team keeps a half-dozen
  • Four tackles (Willie Smith, Tom Compton, Takoby Cofield, Ty Nsekhe) and three interior options (Josh LeRibeus, Austin Reiter, Tyler Larsen) battling for the final 2-3 jobs along the offensive line. Compton could have the inside track with his versatility as a blocking tight end.
  • Running back Trey Williams hoping to convince the team that they need his shifty style and infectious personality on the roster as the fifth RB.
  • Jackson Jeffcoat and Houston Bates trying to grab the fourth outside linebacker job, which came open with Junior Galette's season-ending injury. Certainly possible both work their way onto the Week 1 roster
  • The return game. Chris Thompson, Andre Roberts and Jamison Crowder are in the mix on kickoffs with Thompson, Crowder and Ross vying for the punt return role. Crowder (hamstring) hasn't played yet in the preseason. Hopes that the fourth-round pick would make hs debut against the Ravens are fading. Same goes for any hopes he could supplant Roberts in one or both roles for the start of the season. 

Extra point

Try as we might at least for one article, we cannot ignore the stakes on the line with the quarterbacks.

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The real unknown is whether Cousins is truly competiting for the Week 1 job or not. To some degree, this also applies to McCoy, who will likely enter in the second half. However, it's the upside offered with his strong arm and daring ways that makes Cousins the likely option if Griffin (concussion) isn't cleared. He generated impressive stats thru two games: 20 of 26, 245 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions while taking only one sack. Should Cousins produce with that level of efficiency against Baltimore, many will scream for a QB change. Whether the coaching staff or, more likely, those slotted higher in the organizational flow chart, think the same is the question.

My take: As I've said since the end of last season, there should have been a QB competition. With Griffin struggling to read defenses and throw in rhythm, Cousins is the obvious best pocket passer. That doesn't mean the Redskins win the Super Bowl with him at quarterback or even post a .500 record, but the offense looks the part when he's under center.  That said, the organization passed on having the passers battle, at least publicly. Until they make a change, until they essentially throw in the towel with the franchise's largest investment, we cannot assume the powers that be desire making one even if the move is obvious.


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