In the coming days, position battles will turn fierce as the first round of roster cuts approach and bubble players begin to run out of time. On Aug. 26, teams must cut down to 75 players. Four days later, the final 53-man rosters must be set.
In Washington, there are a handful of competitions that, right now, are still too close to call. But that won’t stop Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler from predicting how they’ll turn out. Up today …
RB Chris Thompson
Tandler—In: It sounds like Jay Gruden is becoming more exasperated by the day as Thompson rehabs the ankle injury. But a head coach doesn’t really worry about the status of a player who isn’t in the team’s plans. Thompson has speed and fast players get more breaks and more chances than slow players. Assuming he heals up (and that’s no lock given his injury history) Gruden will find a way to keep him around.
El-Bashir—In: I could be wrong about this, but I suspect that if Thompson’s spot were in serious jeopardy, he’d be on the field, playing through his sprained ankle. Sure, Gruden is annoyed that he’s not practicing because he’s missing valuable reps. But I also suspect that Gruden believes that Thompson, as of right now at least, is the best fit for what he wants to do on offense and that it’s far more important he’s healthy for Week 1. This is also important to note: Gruden has been intrigued by Thompson’s skillset since his days at Florida State.
G Josh LeRibeus
Tandler—Out: Sometimes the NFL only gives you one chance and LeRibeus blew his. Last year the team was prepared to give him a good chance at being a starter but he showed up out of shape and ended up being inactive for 16 games. This year he was in shape but the team had changed coaches, signed Mike McGlynn as a free agent, and drafted Spencer Long. Timing is everything. It’s still possible that he could be the ninth or even tenth O-lineman on the 53 but he has lot the benefit of the doubt that Mike Shanahan would have given his former third-round pick.
El-Bashir—In: I’ve been predicting the Redskins will keep 10 offensive linemen. And I’m not ready to change my mind. After a disastrous sophomore season, LeRibeus has done exactly what was asked of him. He stuck to his workout plan, managed his weight, increased his strength and, so far, has looked solid in training camp at left and right guard while working with the second string offense. LeRibeus’ odds also figure to be helped by rookie Spencer Long’s inexperience. Second chances don’t come around often, particularly in the cutthroat NFL, but I suspect LeRibeus gets another shot to show the Redskins didn’t waste a third round pick on him.
QB Colt McCoy
Tandler—Out: I’ve been back and forth on the three-quarterbacks question and right now I’m leaning towards Gruden going with two. McCoy likely could get the job done for a few games if Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins were both out but I think Gruden is going to roll the dice and go with a player who has a better chance of contributing. He’s going to end up keeping that fifth running back (like Thompson) or seventh wide receiver over a QB who is unlikely to see any action.
El-Bashir—In: Like Tandler, I’ve gone back and forth on this one. But Gruden has mentioned on a couple of occasions recently that he’s been impressed with McCoy’s performance and knowledge. On Friday, Gruden had this to say: “I also know … some teams have gone to their third quarterback throughout the season, and I feel good about Colt if he had to come in and play.” In addition, Gruden has noted that when he carried two only quarterbacks in Cincinnati, he had a third signal caller on the practice squad. McCoy is that insurance policy, even if keeping him comes at the expense of a fifth running back or seventh wide receiver.