Sunday, February 25, 2024.
Home Sports Projecting the Washington Commanders’ initial 53-man roster

Projecting the Washington Commanders’ initial 53-man roster


Washington Commanders coaches and executives will hold meetings over the next few days to finalize how they’ll cut the roster from 90 players to 53 by the deadline Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

It’s important to stress the resulting roster will be an initial 53. This year is the first when cuts will happen all on one day, rather than in installments, which means this week a total of 1,184 players will become available. Players with fewer than four years of NFL service will be subject to the waiver wire; those with four or more will immediately become free agents. Washington could look to that pool to upgrade several positions, including offensive line and tight end.

After the preseason finale Saturday, Coach Ron Rivera said there were “probably six or seven” depth roster spots left to be decided. He said special teams would be a big factor for reserves. Washington’s executives face difficult choices on the roster’s margins, including whether to prioritize a more polished receiver and less explosive returner (Dax Milne) or a less polished receiver and more explosive returner (Kazmeir Allen).

Takeaways from Saturday’s Commanders-Bengals game

If recent history holds, the Commanders are unlikely to cut any 2023 draft picks, and many cut players are likely to end up on the practice squad. During the coronavirus epidemic, the NFL expanded practice squads from 10 players to 16 (up to six can be veterans with two or more accrued seasons).

Here’s our projection for the Commanders initial 53-man roster:

In: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett

No surprises. Howell will be the starter, Brissett will be the backup and Fromm is likely to end up on the practice squad.

One argument for keeping Fromm: The NFL passed a rule this year that allows teams with three quarterbacks on the active roster to have the third active on game days without counting against the 46-player limit.

Learning the West Coast offense is no joke

In: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Byron Pringle, Dax Milne

Out: Kazmeir Allen, Marcus Kemp, Mitchell Tinsley, Brycen Tremayne, Kyric McGowan, Zion Bowens

With a clear top four, the battle for the final two spots included two former Chiefs (Pringle and Kemp), two slighter slots (Milne and Allen) and one undrafted rookie upstart (Tinsley). Washington could use the fifth spot on the best receiver (Pringle) and must spend the sixth on the punt/kickoff returner.

Allen, though explosive, has been inconsistent. He muffed a punt at the Commanders’ 10-yard line Saturday because he took his eye off the ball too soon, which highlighted the challenge for coaches to rely on a young, volatile player.

Milne, while not as explosive, has been reliable. He fielded 40 punts and 15 kickoffs last season and muffed only one (which he recovered). But his longest punt return was 19 yards and his longest kickoff 33.

If the Commanders want steadiness and security, and if they want to help the new-look offense the most, they might pick Milne and hope to stash Allen on the practice squad as he develops.

Tinsley impressed in the preseason — six catches, 129 yards, one touchdown, three of four special teams phases — but narrowly missed our roster. He may have played well enough for Washington to worry about exposing him to waivers and therefore make a hard cut elsewhere.

A key for Commanders’ OL: Changing of the guards

In: Charles Leno Jr., Andrew Wylie, Sam Cosmi, Saahdiq Charles, Nick Gates, Chris Paul, Tyler Larsen, Ricky Stromberg, Cornelius Lucas, Braeden Daniels

Out: Trent Scott, Alex Akingbulu, Jaryd Jones-Smith, Mason Brooks, Aaron Monteiro, Nolan Laufenberg

Locks: the starting five, the two draft picks (Stromberg and Daniels) and the loser of the left guard battle (Charles or Paul). Washington will probably keep Larsen as a backup center, though Stromberg could also fill the role, as well as one swing tackle. Lucas seems to have the edge on Scott.

Rivera said Thursday it’s critical to keep extra linemen in case of injury. Brooks, Laufenberg and Jones-Smith are strong candidates for the practice squad.

Tight ends could take center stage in new offense

In: Logan Thomas, John Bates, Cole Turner, Alex Armah

Out: Curtis Hodges, Brandon Dillon, Kaden Smith

The one spot up for grabs went to Armah, who also plays fullback, because he’s versatile and an excellent blocker, two traits offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy values in his tight ends. Hodges, the other serious competitor, ran decent routes but struggled with drops.

Washington could also gamble: Keep three tight ends, cut Armah and use the extra spot to keep a young player it’s worried about losing as rosters shake out. It’d be a bet that Armah won’t receive a better free agent deal than Washington is willing to offer.

In: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Out: Jonathan Williams, Derrick Gore, Jaret Patterson

After tragedy, Chris Rodriguez Jr. plays for his mom

It seems unlikely the team would make a hard cut elsewhere to keep a fourth running back. But if it did, it’d be for Williams, a savvy veteran who plays special teams, or Gore, who played well for Bieniemy in 2021. If cut, both are strong candidates for the practice squad.

In: Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, Chase Young, Phidarian Mathis, John Ridgeway, Efe Obada, Andre Jones Jr., K.J. Henry, Casey Toohill, James Smith-Williams

Out: Abdullah Anderson, Benning Potoa’e, Joshua Pryor, Will Bradley-King, Isaiah Mack

The Commanders’ strongest position is also one of the hardest to forecast. There are five strong candidates for backup edge rusher (Obada, Jones, Henry, Toohill, Smith-Williams) and three for backup tackle (Mathis, Ridgeway, Anderson). The team kept only nine defensive linemen on the initial 53 in 2021 and 2022.

Andre Jones Jr. is making a push

This year, the team drafted two defensive linemen (Henry and Jones) and can keep two more because of cuts at linebacker and other spots.

It’s possible the Commanders get through cuts, place Mathis (calf) on injured reserve and re-sign another tackle, such as Anderson.

In: Cody Barton, Jamin Davis, David Mayo, Khaleke Hudson

Out: De’Jon Harris, Ferrod Gardner, Milo Eifler

Washington, like many teams, continues to devalue this position. It will probably only keep four because it rarely uses the base 4-3 defense with three linebackers.

The Commanders will also probably prioritize stashing a linebacker or two on the practice squad. Two days after final cuts, Davis has a hearing related to a reckless driving conviction. He faces a minimum of four and a maximum of eight days in jail.

In: Kendall Fuller, Emmanuel Forbes, Benjamin St-Juste, Quan Martin, Christian Holmes, Danny Johnson

Out: Rachad Wildgoose, Tariq Castro-Fields, Nick Whiteside, D.J. Stirgus, Jace Whittaker, DaMarcus Fields

Benjamin St-Juste is a matchup nightmare

For the final two spots, Johnson and Holmes make sense over Wildgoose and Castro-Fields because of position flex (Johnson can play inside and out) and special teams (Holmes plays all four phases). But Washington’s pro personnel staff clearly likes Wildgoose and Castro-Fields. The team claimed both on waivers after cut day 2022. If exposed, another team might claim Castro-Fields because of his size (6-1, 197) and speed (4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

In: Kam Curl, Darrick Forrest, Percy Butler, Jeremy Reaves

Out: Terrell Burgess, Kendall Smith, Joshua Kalu

Despite his feel-good story and special-teams all-pro award, Reaves is on the bubble. The team heavily invested in the defensive backfield and has young, versatile safeties ahead of him. But ultimately, Reaves’s special-teams prowess is likely to earn him a spot.

In: punter/holder Tress Way, kicker Joey Slye, long snapper Camaron Cheeseman

Washington decided its kicking competition last week when it cut Michael Badgley and kept Slye. The biggest concern is Cheeseman, a 2021 sixth-round pick, who has at times struggled with errant snaps in the preseason. Way blamed the inconsistency on the long snapper trying an experimental new grip.

POST AUTHOR: Sam Fortier and Nicki Jhabvala

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here