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Breaking Down the Final Roster Cuts

From the moment the Redskins' preseason finale ended on Thursday night through Saturday evening when the final roster cuts were announced, coaches and personnel officials were faced with a series of tough decisions.

What to do about the logjam at linebacker? How many wide receivers to keep? Did Jimmy Farris play himself into a roster spot, and did Antonio Brown play himself off? Who won the one-game punt-off?

Head coach Joe Gibbs did his best to answer those questions, and more, in a media session after the team had announced the cuts. It was clear that coaches sought players who could play multiple positions--such as middle linebacker and outside linebacker--and excel at special teams.

Here's a look at the decision process (excluding the quarterback and place kicker positions, both of which had been determined prior to Saturday):

-- RUNNING BACK

It was thought that Rock Cartwright and seventh-round draft pick Nehemiah Broughton were competing for one roster spot, but they both made it, meaning the Redskins will carry four running backs.

Cartwright led the offense with 35 carries for 136 yards and one touchdown, while Broughton logged 36 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Broughton showed that he was effective on special teams; he recorded three special teams tackles in the Ravens game.

Carrying four running backs likely forced coaches to adjust the numbers at other positions on offense.

-- WIDE RECEIVER

The team enters the regular season with five on the roster. Complicating matters is the lingering toe injury to Taylor Jacobs, who made the roster despite not playing in any preseason games.

The Redskins elected to release both Farris, who caught two touchdown passes on Thursday, and veteran Kevin Dyson, the tallest wide receiver on the roster. Brown survived despite a shaky performance against the Ravens, in which he dropped multiple passes, but his real value is on special teams as a kick return specialist.

Releasing Dyson means that the Redskins will not have a wide receiver listed over six feet tall, a rarity these days in the NFL. All offseason, Gibbs and the Redskins hyped the speed of receivers Santana Moss, David Patten, James Thrash, Brown and Jacobs. The expectation is that they will be able to stretch the field, giving Patrick Ramsey deeper threats in the passing game.

-- OFFENSIVE LINE

Second-year lineman Mark Wilson was released, a mild surprise given that he started a Week 11 game against the Steelers last season. A natural guard, Ray Brown and Lennie Friedman were ahead of him on the depth chart, so Wilson was caught in a numbers crunch.

Since Wilson played in only two games last season, he is eligible for the practice squad. That could be his destination, at least for the start of 2005. The plan would be for Wilson to continue to work his craft under assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel and along-side Brown, a 19-year veteran.

The team kept both Friedman and Cory Raymer, giving the team solid depth at the center position. Newcomer Casey Rabach draws the starting assignment.

-- TIGHT END/H-BACK

Tight end Robert Johnson joined the Redskins after training camp had begun and impressed early in the preseason. He recorded two catches for 26 yards and the 6-6, 270-pounder showed flashes as both a pass-catcher and blocking tight end.

It wasn't enough. The team kept third-year player Robert Royal and 11-year veteran Brian Kozlowski, who signed with team right before training camp, over Johnson. Tight ends coach Rennie Simmons worked with Kozlowski when both were with the Atlanta Falcons from 1997-2003.

No surprise at H-back. As expected, Chris Cooley will start and be backed up by Mike Sellers. Kozlowski also has versatility to play H-back, increasing his value.

-- DEFENSIVE LINE

A trio of young linemen, Ryan Boschetti, Nic Clemons and Cedric Killings, emerged in the preseason and earned roster spots. Coaches decided to keep nine defensive linemen, with Ron Warner shown the door despite recording 17 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. Aki Jones, an undrafted rookie out of Fordham, was also released.

Clemons, who has spent the last two seasons on the Redskins' practice squad, made Warner expendable. It was thought that Boschetti and Killings were competing against each other for a roster spot, but their strong play forced coaches to keep an extra defensive tackle.

-- LINEBACKER

The biggest surprise of the roster cuts was undrafted rookie linebacker Zak Keasey making the roster over fellow rookie Robert McCune, a fifth-round draft choice last April, and second-year player Brandon Barnes.

Asked about McCune, Gibbs said the team had a "strategy" in place with the former Louisville linebacker, signaling that the team may want to bring him back on the eight-member practice squad.

The Redskins kept seven linebackers on the roster, with LaVar Arrington's role somewhat uncertain. Warrick Holdman and Lemar Marshall are expected to start at weak-side and middle linebacker, respectively, while Arrington eases back into the defense.

Khary Campbell, a solid special teams player, and Chris Clemons join Keasey as backups in the linebacker corps.

-- DEFENSIVE BACKS

With nine linemen on the roster, coaches may have been forced to keep four cornerbacks. The backups to Shawn Springs and Walt Harris are rookie first-round draft pick Carlos Rogers, who started the last three preseason games, and third-year player Ade Jimoh, who has excelled on special teams.

The team released second-year players Eric Joyce, Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown. All three are eligible for the practice squad.

Coaches kept five safeties, with Omar Stoutmire earning the final spot. Stoutmire, a nine-year veteran, beat out Siddeeq Shabazz, another practice squad candidate.

-- PUNTER

The team decided to keep first-year player Andy Groom instead of newcomer Chris Mohr, a 16-year vet signed last Monday. In the one-game punt-off in last Thursday's 26-20 loss to Baltimore, Mohr had six punts for a 40.2-yard average, while Groom had three punts for a 46-yard average.

Gibbs has long preferred veterans in key positions, so it was somewhat surprising that Gibbs and special teams coordinator Danny Smith chose Groom over Mohr.

But Groom showed enough in training camp and preseason, both as a punter and holder, to earn the job.

"Hopefully what we have there is a young player on the rise," Gibbs said. "And I think John Hall really likes him as a holder. The other night is a good example: John goes in there and kicks a game-tying field goal. Andy was the holder there. That's about as much pressure on a young guy as you're going to get.

"We felt like [Groom] was the punter we needed to keep there."

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