Final roster decisions must be made Friday
The auditions ended Wednesday. Now comes the tough part for all involved. The Redskins, along with every other NFL team, must trim their roster Friday, perhaps shattering dreams in the process. Of course, they also will end up rewarding players who perhaps weren't sure bets when training camp opened more than a month ago.
The reality is that most spots were decided before Wednesday. But here are some positions that remain unsettled:
Receiver » Last season they kept seven, excluding Brandon Banks, whom they considered a return specialist. Semantics. This by far is the toughest call. Do they keep six? Or seven? What do they value more? Speed or size? They have both as Aldrick Robinson and Brandon Banks are fast, as is Anthony Armstrong. The first two can help as returners, though Robinson only on kickoffs. Armstrong is an excellent gunner on punts; the guess is that will matter a great deal. If coach Mike Shanahan is serious about Banks needing to make it as a receiver, then it will be tough if they only keep six. He has deep speed, but his size limits the routes he can run. He's a dangerous punt returner but was bad on kickoffs last year.
Meanwhile, Dezmon Briscoe is the biggest of the bunch at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. He used his size well, particularly over the middle. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed a 17-yard pass to him vs. Tampa Bay on Wednesday near the hashes, a pass made easier because of his size. And Cousins' lone interception? He tried to hit the 5-foot-10 Robinson in the same area and couldn't throw it as high; the ball was tipped and intercepted.
Naturally, Briscoe said, "If it's too high we can go get it. It's always comfortable to have a tall receiver running over the middle."
But Briscoe did not play special teams, a fact that left him wondering about his status for Friday.
Offensive line » The Redskins kept eight linemen last season; teams often keep nine. But the ninth linemen would be inactive each week, so they can keep their extra linemen on the practice squad. Guard Adam Gettis, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Tom Compton, a seventh-rounder, both are practice squad candidates. Neither proved he is ready to play in a regular-season game yet.
If they keep only eight, then the backups likely would be guard/tackle Maurice Hurt, guard Josh LeRibeus and veteran tackle Jordan Black -- unless they feel Willie Smith improved enough the past couple weeks.
Linebacker » The first seven roster spots are set, but the eighth -- and potential final -- one provides the intrigue. Chris Wilson, Bryan Kehl and Markus White are competing for that spot. The Redskins kept nine linebackers to open 2011, so that's a possibility.
Wilson, an outside linebacker, stood out in several games, including vs. Indianapolis' starters. He also plays special teams. Kehl, an inside linebacker, had a solid camp, though he's considered a better linebacker than special teamer. White, also an outside linebacker, played better in the final preseason game and is younger, but he doesn't provide the immediate help the other two would. Rookie Keenan Robinson should make it if only because he's a fourth-round pick, but it's hard to see him being active in many games.
If the Redskins keep two of these linebackers, they could opt for nine defensive backs -- one less than usual. Either way it's tough to see safety Jordan Bernstine, a seventh-round pick, making it, though he's a strong practice squad candidate. Seventh-round pick Richard Crawford had a strong camp and likely will earn a spot.