Friday, August 29, 2014

Roster predictions/evaluation- Defense and Special Teams

With the Redskins' final 2014 preseason snap played, we're less than 2 days out from the cut down to 53. Let's take a look at the prospects, what I think will happen, and what I think should happen.

bold: lock
italics: predicted roster spot
normal: off the roster  



Nose Tackle (1)
1. Barry Cofield
2. Chris Neild (Injured)

3. Robert Thomas
This is tricky, because I think Cofield and Neild were the pretty clear picks, but Neild hurt his knee against the Bucs last night, and there's speculation it might be a torn ACL. If that's the case, obviously he will be on injured reserve. Even then, I think the team opts for an extra defense end that can play the nose rather than keeping Thomas, leaving Cofield as the only true nose tackle (if you can call him that). 

Defensive End (5)
1. Jason Hatcher
2. Stephen Bowen (PUP?)
3. Chris Baker
4. Jarvis Jenkins
5. Kedric Golston
6. Clifton Geathers
7. Frank Kearse 
Six defensive ends is a lot, but seven total defensive linemen is reasonable. I predict Stephen Bowen starts the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, also, which means only 5 for the time being. Clifton Geathers has put together a very strong preseason and has the size to help out at nose tackle, so I think he makes the team, and I expect Golston to as well. 

Inside Linebacker (5)
1. Perry Riley
2. Keenan Robinson
3. Adam Hayward
4. Will Compton
5. Darryl Sharpton
6. Akeem Jordan (Injured. PUP?)

ILB is another toughie to predict. Will Compton has been very impressive this preseason and gotten a lot of run, so I think he makes it. Akeem Jordan would be my 4th if he hasn't hurt his knee night. Early indications are a sprained MCL, so it isn't certain how much time he'll miss. If doctors determined it won't be much more than a month, I think he might get put on the PUP list and have a chance to replace one of the other ILBs after 6 weeks. If that's the case, I think there's a solid chance that both Hayward and Sharpton stick with the team, at least until week 6.

Outside Linebacker (4)
1. Brian Orakpo
2. Ryan Kerrigan
3. Trent Murphy
4. Everette Brown
5. Gabe Miller
The most surprising cut of the season was outside linebacker Rob Jackson. That speaks to confidence in third rounder Trent Murphy as the main rotational linebacker on both sides allowing them to go with Everette Brown and his special teams play over Jackson's superior defense. Gabe Miller has been a big surprise this preseason, putting on a good showing, culminating with a top notch sack-fumble-fumble recovery against he Buccaneers, in which he did a good job of chasing down a boot-legging Mike Kafka, knocking the ball loose, and keeping the wherewithal to find and get the ball afterwards as well. I still have him missing the cut, but he could make it over Brown or one of the ILBs.

Cornerback (6)
1. DeAngelo Hall
2. David Amerson
3. Tracy Porter
4. EJ Biggers
5. Bashaud Breeland
6. Richard Crawford
7. Chase Minnifield 
The defensive backs are tough to predict. As a high draft pick, Breeland isn't going to get cut, and Hall and Amerson are locked in as starters. Porter isn't great and has been predictably unimpressive. That said, The Skins gave him a big contract this off-season for a reason, so I don't anticipate them cutting him yet. Additionally, he didn't play in the fourth preseason game, which indicates to me that they had already made their decision on him and wanted to see the other guys more I wouldn't miss him, but don't see him getting cut. I like Minnifield a lot, but he's probably too far behind the rest of the group, and didn't do a lot to change that. As such, Biggers and Crawford are the two guys that could go either way. They could opt to keep only five corners, but but Crawford has made a few good plays and is a big special teams guy, while the team likes Biggers' versatility, as he can play the slot and outside, as well as (poorly) play safety. He made a few good hits on special teams as well, this pre-season, surprising me with some good tackling work. Though I'd take Crawford over Porter or Minnifield, I think he's probably the odd man out if they only keep five corners. That said, I expect six.

Safety (4)
1. Ryan Clark
2. Brandon Merriweather (suspended first two games)
3. Bacarri Rambo
4. Phillip Thomas
5. Trenton Robinson
6. Akeem Davis
7. Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith

This is another spot with some decent depth in terms of young talent behind disappointing starters. Phillip Thomas' continued injury issues have put his roster spot in jeopardy, but I think the team believes in his talent enough to keep him. Akeem Davis was a long-shot that may have played his way onto the back end of the roster this preseason as a solid defender and good special teamer. Particularly while Merriweather is suspended, it seems very possible that both Davis and Thomas make the team. Still, I have them keeping six corners, and eleven defensive backs would be a stretch. I think Biggers' ostensible ability to back the safety positions up might allow them to feel more comfortable with only three active safeties the first two weeks. Don't be shocked, though, if Davis takes Thomas' or Crawford's spot.

Kicker (1)
1. Kai Forbath
2. Zach Hocker
It's rare that a team drafts a specialist without intending to keep him. That said, I think Forbath keeps the job. Hocker showed a good leg, but Forbath is more accurate, and the knock on him has been leg strength, particularly as pertaining to kickoffs. This preseason, Forbath has kicked a bunch pretty deep into the end zone (and Hocker missed a field goal wide right against the Bucs last night), so I think he sticks. Some teams keep a kickoff specialist, but Gruden has said that's not the goal. Forbath still isn't great at kickoffs, but I think he looks to have improved enough to handle all kicking duties.

Punter (1)
1. Robert Malone
2. Tress Way
Malone isn't an exciting option, but should probably beat Way out. I wouldn't be shocked to see him challenged or replaced by someone else this season, though, possibly very soon if another team cuts a punter they like.

Long Snapper (1)
1. Nick Sundberg
Nothing much to say here. The team likes Sundberg so much they used up their short-term IR designation on him last year. He'll be the team's long snapper.

28 total (25 defense, 3 special teams)

PUP Predictions: DE Stephen Bowen, ILB Akeem Jordan

Bottom of the roster guys: CB Richard Crawford, CB EJ Biggers, ILB Adam Hayward, ILB Darryl Sharpton, OLB Everette Brown

Players most likely to surprise me by making the team: S Akeem Davis, OLB Gabe Miller

UPDATE: Just as I was finishing this up, it was announced that the team cut Malone. I guess Way is the punter, but I still think there's a great chance that someone else is brought in to replace him.

UPDATE: Richard Crawford was also released, unfortunately. Biggers and Porter are safe, and I think that means Thomas and Davis will both likely make the team as well. 

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