Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will be taking a close look at the Redskins’ depth chart, dissecting each position.
Some spots are straightforward. Others are more complicated. This much, however, is not up for debate: A player is not on the 53-man roster until the final cuts are made.
So who are the odds-on favorites to snag spots? And who’s in trouble? Up today …
Position: defensive end.
On the roster: Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker, Jarvis Jenkins, Stephen Bowen, Kedric Golston, Clifton Geathers and Doug Worthington.
Likely to make the 53: Hatcher, Baker, Jenkins, Bowen and Golston.
Comment: Assuming Hatcher’s recovery from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee goes according to schedule—and the initial prognosis is that he’s on track for the opening week of training camp—he’ll be the starter at right end.
Baker, meantime, can play nose tackle and both ends spots. But since he worked almost exclusively as the first-string left end this offseason, he figures start there in Week 1. Last season, Baker started the final three games at left end and performed well enough to earn a three-year, $9 million contract extension.
The big question mark in training camp will be Bowen’s health. The 30-year-old is attempting to return from the microfracture surgery that ended his 2013 season and caused him to miss OTAs and minicamp. He says he’ll be ready for training camp next month. Assuming he’s able to return—and that’s no sure thing given his age and the tricky nature of microfracture surgery—he could be a solid rotational player. In addition to the concern about his knee, though, is the recent decline in his stats. After a career year in 2011 with 41 combined tackles and six sacks, he’s averaged 22 tackles per season and has totaled a single sack.
Jenkins must earn his playing time in 2014 after the arrival of Hatcher and the emergence of Baker. To do that Jenkins needs to be good against the run, which he is, and prove he can continue to improve as a pass rusher. The 26-year-old will also be playing for his next contract.
Golston figures to settle into a backup role after Jenkins’ suspension forced him back into a starting lineup early last season. The 31-year-old Golston added to his value this offseason by playing some nose tackle while Barry Cofield recovered from hernia surgery.
Battling for a job: Geathers and Worthington.
Comment: Last season, the Redskins kept six defensive linemen on cutdown day. The number could grow to seven, but that’s tough to envision. If you count Hatcher, Baker, Cofield, Jenkins as locks and Golston as good, too, that leaves one (maybe two) spots available on the D-line.
And if Bowen proves he’s healthy, there’s even less wiggle room for Geathers and Worthington to squeeze onto the 53. Geathers, 26, needs a strong training camp and preseason after signing a two-year free agent deal in March. Worthington, meanwhile, has appeared in only six games in three seasons with the Redskins and has quite a challenge ahead of him.