Redskins' defensive line depth being put to test
By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
The Redskins now have 90 players. Out of that group, plus a few more who may be added during the 40 days between now and the Aug. 31 final cut day, Mike Shanahan and Co. will choose the 53-man roster.
Who will those 53 be? We’ve seen OTAs and minicamp and the beginning of training camp. Knowing that a lot can change as camp wears on and during the four preseason games, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler project who will be on the roster when the Redskins take on the Eagles to open the season on Sept. 9. Earlier today we projected the offense, here's the defense.
Tandler (2): Barry Cofield, Chris Neild
El-Bashir (2): Cofield, Neild
Tandler (4): Stephen Bowen, Chris Baker, Phillip Merling,
El-Bashir (4): Bowen, Baker, Golston, Merling
Tandler: Just before camp I looked at this and decided that I would stick with the projection I did before OTAs. Recent events, of course, have made that projection obsolete. Adam Carriker’s quad injury is likely to make him unavailable for the start of the season (if not all of it) and Jarvis Jenkins will be a spectator for the first four weeks after his PED suspension. Baker is now an end exclusively and he could start there. When Jenkins comes back, Merling could be on the bubble.
El-Bashir: With Carriker’s season in jeopardy and Jenkins suspended the first four games, Baker has moved over from nose tackle and has a chance to seize a starting job. But Golston, who has started 43 games in his career but none the past two seasons, has his eyes on that role as well. Best guess is they’ll rotate. Merling will edge Dominique Hamilton, but he’ll have trouble hanging onto a job once Jenkins returns Week 5. Neild returns from ACL surgery and replaces Baker as Cofield’s backup.
Tandler (4): London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Bryan Kehl, Roddrick Muckelroy
El-Bashir (4): Fletcher, Riley, Muckelroy, Kehl
Tandler (4): Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Darryl Tapp, Brandon Jenkins
El-Bashir (4): Orakpo, Kerrigan, Tapp, Jenkins
Tandler: With Rob Jackson out with a PED suspension and Lorenzo Alexander having departed via free agency, this group is quite thin behind starters Orakpo and Kerrigan. Tapp is in his first season at linebacker after having played 4-3 end his entire career and Jenkins is a rookie. Vic So’oto has a shot at sticking as wel
El-Bashir: With Jackson suspended the first four games and Robinson likely done for the season, linebacker depth will be tested. Muckelroy, Robinson’s former Texas teammate, will now serve as Fletcher’s primary backup. Kehl can play inside or outside and is a special teams stud; he’ll replace Alexander. Tapp makes the team, but his grip figures to be tenuous because Jackson returns in Week 5. Also wouldn’t rule out an ILB – like Joe Mays – being signed to fight for a job.
Tandler (5): DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, E.J. Biggers, David Amerson, Richard Crawford
El-Bashir: (5): Hall, Wilson, Biggers, Amerson, Crawford
Tandler (5): Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, DeJon Gomes El-Bashir (5): Meriweather, Doughty, Thomas, Rambo, Gomes
Tandler: Crawford seems to be safe at corner thanks to the fact that he seems to be the primary punt returner. That puts Chase Minnifield on the wrong side of the bubble. Ten defensive backs is a lot but with the uncertainty surrounding the three rookies the Redskins could look to keep an extra body or two around just in case they don’t develop.
El-Bashir: Crawford’s punt return ability will help him beat out Minnifield for the final corner spot. Rambo started training camp as the first team free safety and, barring a setback in his development, figures to be there Week 1. Assuming Meriweather is healthy, he’s start at strong safety and Thomas will serve as his understudy. Special teams contributors Doughty and Gomes will hang on. Doughty, in fact, is a candidate to be elected special teams captain.
Tandler (3): PK Kai Forbath, LS Nick Sundberg, P Sav Rocca
El-Bashir (3): Forbath, Sundberg, Rocca.
Tandler: Forbath isn’t being challenged as the kicker. It’s doubtful that he’ll rest on his laurels after he hit is first 17 NFL field goal tries last year but perhaps a push from someone might have helped. They could always bring in someone later if he does struggle.
El-Bashir: Kickoff specialist John Potter was brought in to compete with Forbath, but he doesn’t figure to make the 53. Can’t afford to keep two kickers. And why mess with Forbath’s head? Kickoffs are important, but making field goals in the clutch is even more so. No changes here.