The Washington Redskins open the preseason Thursday night in Atlanta. The depth chart, even the unofficial version head coach Jay Gruden asks us to ignore until the third preseason game, will look different by next week, if not minutes after matching up with the Falcons. Here's my sense of the Week 1 53-man roster right now.
Starters in italics
Quarterback (2) -- Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy.
* @Rookie Nate Sudfeld must truly standout in his preseason opportunities to stick on the Week 1 roster considering the position needs elsewhere. If not, the Redskins will try and sneak the sixth round pick onto the practice squad. Meanwhile, there is nothing McCoy can do to generate a QB competition so let's not go there no matter what happens against the other team's backups.
* Jones and Thompson are the only roster locks here. Marshall's size and speed combo is exciting and he looked the part in camp, albeit without facing tackling. Undrafted rookie and OTA standout Robert Kelley and 2015 holdover Mack Brown also looked sharp at times. Both can still work their way on the roster. Same for fullback Joe Kerridge if he pops opponents in blocking situations and on special teams. I still believe a veteran addition joins the roster, though that might not be until Week 2 so the Redskins can avoid paying a guaranteed contract.
Wide receiver (6) -- DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Rashad Ross, Ryan Grant
* No Crowder (hamstring) or Doctson (Achilles) against the Falcons means more work for Grant in the slot, Ross on the outside and potential preseason hero Maurice Harris, who must really, really standout to crack this group.
Tight end (3) -- Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Vernon Davis
* We'll hold off thinking about Derek Carrier until he returns from his knee injury. The odd man out here is Logan Paulsen. It's a numbers thing, as in the overall 53-man roster. Washington could keep four tight ends and ideally might want that many. But with the impressive trio ahead of him and the needs elsewhere, four might be a luxury.
* As long as the Redskins feel comfortable with Long at center if needed, then Josh LeRibeus and his snapping woes are in trouble. Lauvao probably moves back into the starting lineup for Week 1, but let's see him on the field for real after many months sideline before making a call.
* I'm combining the front-7 together because their more intertwined positionally than normal this year. Kerrigan and Smith are listed at LB, but will play 4-3 ends plenty. Murphy is moving back to linebacker, but Gruden claims he can envision using him on the line after doing so most of the offseason. If Murphy counts with the linebackers, than there is room to keep another lineman and Hood is making noise on the nose. Garvin might be 16th among this group, but he's a help on special teams. If Bates doesn't wow in preseason, he could be in danger regardless of whether fellow outside backers Lynden Trail or Willie Jefferson impress. Not ready to say 33-year-old Golston is a lock, but if the final factor is the locker room vibe, he's in.
Defensive back (10) -- Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton, Dashaun Phillips, Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller, Greg Toler, Will Blackmon, Duke Ihenacho
* Tell me who from this group isn't roster worthy at this point and we can keep a fourth tight end or extra lineman. The six corners are making plays in camp. The four safeties all have greater challenges, whether transitioning to a new position or staying healthy. There are interesting options like Lloyd Carrington and Deshazor Everett who most years would receive a real sleeper tag. There's just no room at the inn right now.
Specialists (3) -- Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, Nick Sundberg
* Nothing to see here.
Final decision: Bates, Garvin and yet-to-be-added or determined fourth RB over Paulsen
Last cuts: ILB Perry Riley, TE Logan Paulsen, RB Mack Brown/RB Robert Kelley/Joe Kerridge
* Riley's range remains starter or salary cap casualty. With the way the roster numbers breakdown and based on how Spaight and Cravens have performed so far, it seems far to think the Redskins can gamble on letting Riley's experience walk for financial savings. If no veteran RB joins the roster, the fourth RB comes down to special teams work. That Jones, Thompson and Marshall are all injury prone makes keeping another back capable of carrying the ball as well a worthy plan. Based on all those factors and NFL experience, give me Brown over Kelley.
Practice squad: QB Nate Sudfeld, RB Robert Kelley/Mack Brown/Robert Kerridge (pick 2), WR Maurice Harris, DB DeShazor Everett, CB Lloyd Carrington, LB Lynden Trail, S Geno Matias-Smith
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