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Projecting The Washington Football Team's 53-Man Roster

Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Fooball Team
Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Fooball Team

With its most unusual preseason in franchise history coming to a close, the Washington Football team is in the midst of finalizing its initial 53-man roster for the 2020 season. The deadline to do so is Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

Washington has a lot to consider before then, including what to do with quarterback Alex Smith, linebacker Reuben Foster and Bryce Love -- all of whom are coming off major injuries. Several position battles will also have to be sorted out (more on that below).

Ahead of roster cuts, WashingtonFootball.com's Zach Selby and Kyle Stackpole each came up with their own version of the team's 53-man roster. Here's a position-by-position breakdown of who's in and who's out.

(NOTE: These projections are opinion based and in no way affiliated with the official 53-man roster, which will be released Saturday)

Quarterback

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Dwayne Haskins Jr. Dwayne Haskins Jr.
2. Kyle Allen Kyle Allen
3. Alex Smith Alex Smith

Zach's take: It's uncommon for teams to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man rosters, but Washington has a unique situation with the position. Dwayne Haskins Jr. is a first-round pick who has shown promise since being drafted 15th overall in 2019; Kyle Allen worked with head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Carolina; and Smith is in the midst of a remarkable comeback and has proven he can still make NFL-caliber passes.

All three bring some value to the roster as well. While Haskins was just announced as the starter, Allen is a competent backup and Smith can offer veteran leadership to both of them. All three might not be on the active roster for every game, but they will offer valuable contributions in their own way.

Kyle's take: I just do not see a situation where Washington cuts Smith. If he is not ready for the regular season, Washington could keep him on the 53-man roster Saturday and then move him to Injured Reserve the next day. For this year only, teams are able to activate an unlimited number of players once they've been IR for three weeks, so Smith would have additional time to complete what's already been a remarkable comeback.

Running Back

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson
2. Antonio Gibson Antonio Gibson
3. J.D. McKissic J.D. McKissic
4. Bryce Love Bryce Love
5. Peyton Barber --

Zach's take: I went back and forth for days on whether Washington would keep four or five running backs, but I decided to stick with the team holding on to the entire position. Admittedly, keeping five running backs seems excessive, but Rivera has heaped praise on every player at the position at various points during training camp.

Adrian Peterson is clearly the leader of the group and still has plenty of talent at 35 years old; Antonio Gibson has proven himself as a versatile weapon; J.D. McKissic can be a valuable pass-catcher out of the backfield and in the slot; Peyton Barber brings a "thump" to his running style, according to running backs coach Randy Jordan; and Love, like Smith, is in the middle of a comeback and has shown he still has the skills that made him a Heisman finalist at Stanford.

However, it should be noted that Love is still in his recovery process, so it is possible that he could be placed on Injured Reserve so he can focus on getting ready for his career-debut. Rivera said Aug. 30 "it's really about breaking through to the next level" for Love, and he was excited to see how Love progressed during the week. So while five running backs could make the cut, the team could only feature four for at least the first three weeks.

Kyle's take: If teams could place players directly on the practice squad, I think that's where Love would go. He has flashed his potential at times, but he is not a part of the starting rotation at running back, which has largely consisted of Peterson, Gibson and McKissic.

However, players must clear waivers before the team who cut them can add them to its practice squad, and I just don't know if Love -- a 2019 fourth-round pick and former Heisman Trophy finalist -- would make it back to Washington. That's largely why I have him making the 53-man roster.

The odd man out for me is Barber. While Rivera has praised the fifth-year pro throughout training camp, he has a similar skillset to Peterson and likely would not see the field much unless Peterson got hurt. Washington might turn to Gibson to handle the every-down responsibilities. He has been in the backfield a lot recently and has shown the ability to excel as more of a traditional running back.

Wide Receiver

Table inside Article
# Of Players Kyle Kyle
1. Terry McLaurin Terry McLaurin
2. Dontrelle Inman Dontrelle Inman
3. Steven Sims Jr. Steven Sims Jr.
4. Antonio Gandy-Golden Antonio Gandy-Golden
5. Cam Sims Cam Sims
6. Isaiah Wright Trey Quinn

Zach's take: There aren't many surprises at the top of this position group. Terry McLaurin is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver of the bunch while Steven Sims Jr. is the top slot receiver. Dontrelle Inman has filled in nicely as the No. 2 receiver opposite of McLaurin despite being a late addition to training camp. Antonio Gandy-Golden has also flashed his talent at certain points, and the coaching staff has high hopes for his future with the team.

Cam Sims has not played well during the regular season in two years with the team, but he has been one of the standouts of camp this year. He's a tall receiver who has proven over the past month that he has reliable hands. A new coaching staff could be what he needs to shine for Washington.

Isaiah Wright hasn't made as many plays as Cam Sims, but he has worked with the starters as well as the backups. What's more, he has played at all four receiver positions and caught punts during special teams drills. Rivera values position flexibility, which should benefit Wright during roster cuts.

Kyle's take: The foursome of McLaurin, Inman, Steven Sims and Gandy-Golden appear to be locks to make the 53-man roster. And since we both feel Washington will only keep six wideouts, that leaves Cam Sims, Quinn and Wright fighting for the remaining two spots.

I give the edge to Sims and Quinn. Sims has impressed for the third straight summer, and while that has not translated to production during the regular season, Washington needs another big-bodied, physical wideout after losing Kelvin Harmon to injury. Sims has also shown to have a good rapport with Haskins.

Quinn is currently the backup slot receiver and has more experience playing inside than anyone on the roster. Quinn is also a capable punt returner.

I think Wright, an undrafted rookie, clears waivers and ends up on the practice squad, giving him more time to develop.

"He's not quite ready for prime time -- at least not yet," Rivera said of Wright, "but he's shown that he has some skillsets and you see the flashes."

Tight End

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Logan Thomas Logan Thomas
2. Marcus Baugh Marcus Baugh
3. Jeremy Sprinkle Jeremy Sprinkle

Zach's take: It has been clear since training camp began that three tight ends have stood out from the group. Logan Thomas has been one of Haskins' favorite targets. They have connected on several passes since the media has been allowed to watch practices, and Rivera has spoken highly of his skillset.

Jeremy Sprinkle has value as a blocker and a pass-catcher, so he'll likely make the roster. Rivera also saw good things from Sprinkle during Sunday's practice, which heavily emphasized competition.

The only other tight end to get significant playing time has been Marcus Baugh, who has emerged as another favorite target for Haskins. Baugh has been slated as the second tight end behind Thomas, and he's been a solid option in the passing game.

There's an outside chance Washington could keep four tight ends, in which case Hale Hentges or Richard Rodgers could be in play, but it seems at least Thomas, Baugh and Sprinkle will certainly make the cut.

Kyle's take: The pecking order of tight ends appears clear-cut with Thomas as the No. 1 option and Baugh as a secondary threat. For a while, I was not sure if Sprinkle would make the roster, but Rivera seems to be high on him. He referred to Sprinkle as the "most stout" tight end last week and recently praised his special teams ability.

"I think Jon Bostic was a good veteran to name as was [TE] Jeremy Sprinkle," Rivera said after practice Monday. "Those are two guys that are part of the core of what we do as a football team. They both played special teams, and they played it very well. I was very pleased with that."

Offensive Line

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Geron Christian Sr. Geron Christian Sr.
2. Wes Martin Wes Martin
3. Chase Roullier Chase Roullier
4. Brandon Scherff Brandon Scherff
5. Morgan Moses Morgan Moses
6. Saahdiq Charles Saahdiq Charles
7. Keith Ismael Keith Ismael
8. David Sharpe David Sharpe
9. -- Cornelius Lucas

Zach's take: The starting five for the offensive line seems to have been set since the start of training camp. There have been some temporary changes, including Keith Ismael receiving some time at center and left guard, but for the most part, the group of Geron Christian Sr., Wes Martin, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses remains unchanged.

There have been some questions about depth outside of the starters, though, particularly at tackle. Washington traded for David Sharpe Tuesday night to bring in more options ahead of cuts, but he has limited experience as a starter. Saahdiq Charles has not taken a snap since padded practices began, and it remains unknown as to when he will return from a calf injury.

Ismael can play all three interior positions, and the coaching staff seems confident he can fill any of those roles if necessary.

Kyle's take: I believe there are eight locks along the offensive line: the five starters (Scherff, Moses, Roullier, Martin and Christian), two drafted rookies (Ismael and Charles) and the newest addition (Sharpe). In terms of Sharpe, it would not make much sense to trade for a player and then cut him later in the week.

The question becomes if Washington decides to keep a ninth offensive lineman, and I think they do. Cornelius Lucas gets the nod over Wes Schweitzer and Ross Pierschbacher because the team needs more tackle depth.

Defensive Tackle

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Matt Ioannidis Matt Ioannidis
2. Daron Payne Daron Payne
3. Jonathan Allen Jonathan Allen
4. Tim Settle Tim Settle

Zach's take: It's rare to have two first-round talents at the same position, let alone on the same defensive line, but that's what Washington has with Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne as the primary defensive tackles. The two have combined for 251 tackles and 22 sacks in their careers, so both know how to stop the run as well as get to opposing quarterbacks.

Matt Ioannidis, who led Washington with 8.5 sacks last year and has 20.5 in four seasons, is also certain to make the roster. And while Tim Settle hasn't had the same statistics as any of the previously mentioned players, he has shown some flashes in camp that make him a safe bet to fill in as the fourth player at the position.

Kyle's take: This is one of the easiest positions on the roster to project. Allen, Payne and Ioannidis are studs, while Settle has been a solid reserve since entering the NFL in 2018.

German defensive tackle David Bada will also be on the team as a part of the NFL International Player Pathway Program. He does not count towards the 53-man roster.

Defensive End

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Chase Young Chase Young
2. Montez Sweat Montez Sweat
3. Ryan Kerrigan Ryan Kerrigan
4. Ryan Anderson Ryan Anderson
5. Jordan Brailford James Smith-Williams

Zach's take: This is clearly the most-talented position on the team. Chase Young and Montez Sweat are both emerging first-round pass rushers, while Ryan Kerrigan is 1.5 sacks away from being the franchise sack leader. Ryan Anderson is a new addition to the position after spending most of his career as a linebacker, but Rivera and Jack Del Rio like his skillset and view him as a valuable asset to the group.

This is also one of Washington's deepest positions, so there is a strong chance at least one of its talented pass rushers will not make the cut. I chose Jordan Brailford over James Smith-Williams because he has done well during 1-on-1 pass-rushing and team drills. He doesn't have many moves in his rushing arsenal, but his spin move is impressive. Smith-Williams has promise, but spending a year on the practice squad would be beneficial for his development.

Kyle's take: The top four defensive ends are set with Anderson, Kerrigan, Young and Sweat. The latter two will probably start with Kerrigan also playing a lot and Anderson being used a little less.

Assuming Washington chooses to keep nine defensive linemen, the decision comes down to Brailford and Smith-Williams. For several reasons, I'm going with Smith-Williams.

For one, the current group in Washington chose to select Smith Williams in the seventh round of this year's draft. The old regime drafted Brailford in the seventh round in 2019, and then he spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. Smith-Williams also provides positional versatility and special teams ability. Brailford has stood out more with his pass-rushing skills, but Smith-Williams has been solid as a defensive end and has even played some defensive tackle. He's also earned rave reviews from the longest-tenured Washington football player.

"The dude is stupid smart and just a freak athlete," long snapper Nick Sundberg said recently on the Washington Football Team Talk podcast. "He's going to be a dog on [special] teams. I think Coach [Nate] Kaczor's really excited to find ways to utilize his athletic ability and just his overall cerebral-ness. The guy's a freak, man. He's going to do some awesome things."

If Sundberg believes, so do I, meaning Brailford ends up on the practice squad.

Linebacker

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Thomas Davis Sr. Thomas Davis Sr.
2. Cole Holcomb Cole Holcomb
3. Shaun Dion Hamilton Shaun Dion Hamilton
4. Kevin Pierre-Louis Kevin Pierre-Louis
5. Khaleke Hudson Khaleke Hudson
Jon Bostic Jon Bostic

Zach's take: Washington likes its linebacker corps and plans on having a committee of starters for the regular season. Thomas Davis Sr. brings 16-years of experience along with knowledge of working with Rivera for most of his career. Kevin Pierre-Louis has also been among the starting linebacker group for most of camp, and Del Rio has high expectations for the six-year veteran.

The main question for the position is what Washington will do with Foster now that he is off the Physically Unable to Perform list and working with the third group of linebackers. The coaching staff has praised him in the past, but it's hard to imagine the team cutting any of the players mentioned above to make a spot for him.

Kyle's take: I agree with Zach when it comes to Foster. There just does not seem to be a spot for a third-team linebacker, even if he is a former first-round pick and coming off a major injury. An option for Washington would be to cut Foster, hope he clears waivers and then add him to the practice squad. That would give the team more time to see if Foster can regain the explosiveness and play-making ability that make him such an enticing player in the first place.

Cornerback

Table inside Article
# Of Players Zach Kyle
1. Kendall Fuller Kendall Fuller
2. Ronald Darby Ronald Darby
3. Fabian Moreau Fabian Moreau
4. Jimmy Moreland Jimmy Moreland
5. Greg Stroman Aaron Colvin

Zach's take: Kendall Fuller is the best player at the position and was Washington's biggest acquisition of free agency. Ronald Darby, another free agent signee from March, will likely fill in as the other outside corner alongside Fuller. Defensive backs coach Chris Harris has been impressed with Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland's ability to play on the outside and in the slot, so expect those two to be heavy contributors this year as well.

People should not get overly excited about practice interceptions, but Greg Stroman certainly has collected the most in the past month. This coaching staff wants to fill the roster with players who can impact games, and Stroman has made his case that he can do that playing in Del Rio's defense.

Kyle's take: If everyone is healthy, Fuller and Darby will start on the outside and Moreland plays in the slot. If either Fuller or Darby get hurt, Moreau will be the first replacement.

There's a chance Washington keeps six cornerbacks, which means both Stroman and veteran Aaron Colvin would likely make the team. But both Zach and I believe it'll keep just five, and I think Colvin will beat out Stroman.

I understand that from an outside perspective, Stroman stood out way more in training camp than Colvin. In fact, Stroman led all defenders in interceptions during practices open to the media. But where Colvin has the advantage is his experience -- six seasons compared to two, one of which Stroman missed because of injury. Rivera also included Colvin when talking to reporters about the state of the secondary Aug. 22.

"Well, I'll tell you what it's a good group," Rivera said. "The young guys are doing a nice job. They have stepped up, but so have the veteran guys that we have here as well. You look at Darby, you look at Moreau, you look at Fuller, you look at Colvin and you look at Moreland. Those guys, as five guys go, you feel pretty strong about it. As far as the young guys and the performances they've had, you feel pretty comfortable going in with corners."

Safety

Table inside Article
# of players Zach Kyle
1. Troy Apke Troy Apke
2. Landon Collins Landon Collins
3. Sean Davis Sean Davis
4. Deshazor Everett Deshazor Everett
5. Kamren Curl Kamren Curl

Zach's take: Washington signed Sean Davis in March anticipating he would compete to be the starting free safety, but Troy Apke has been in that role for most of training camp. He has been developing a strong relationship with Landon Collins and broke up multiple passes since the team started holding fully-padded practices. With Deshazor Everett working in with Davis at the backup safety spots, Washington is poised to have a solid rotation at the position.

Seventh-round pick Kamren Curl has grabbed three interceptions during training camp, but his true value to the roster comes from his ability to play safety and corner. Rivera has said Curl "could help us" because of his position flexibility, and he could also be a valuable addition on special teams.

Kyle's take: The safety position has three roster locks with two starters (Collins and Apke) and a standout special teamer (Everett). Davis probably makes the roster, too, but he was underwhelming during training camp and only signed a one-year deal in the offseason. One of the final players to make the roster will be Curl because of his standout training camp and his versatility. Not only did he make a few interceptions, but he can line up at either safety or corner. And you know how much this coaching staff loves positional flexibility.

Specialists

Table inside Article
# of players Zach Kyle
Kicker Dustin Hopkins Dustin Hopkins
Punter Tress Way Tress Way
Long snapper Nick Sundberg Nick Sundberg

Zach's take: There haven't been any changes to this trio since Rivera was hired, and no one should expect any, either. Tress Way, Nick Sundberg and Dustin Hopkins have developed a strong connection over the years. Way was voted to his first-career Pro Bowl in 2019, Hopkins is 84.9% in field goals and Sundberg has been a reliable long snapper for a decade. There's no reason to shake up this group.

Kyle's take: Let the good times roll.

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