Redskins training camp is quickly approaching as it is now less than six weeks away. A few weeks ago we visited training camp battles within each position group. We have a firm grasp on who will be the Redskins top 40 players or so on their 53 man roster but the remaining spots are up for grabs. So let’s look at the battles going on for the final roster spots this summer. Each of these players has a golden opportunity to make this team and be contributors for the Redskins.
Maurice Hurt, OL
Maurice has played all along the OL except at Center. When he was drafted many experts said his talent level wasn’t that far off from the Pouncey Brothers, it’s just that they overshadowed him. Scouts said they felt he would be a steal, and so far- Hurt has turned out to be a great pick. He struggled a little in his first action in 2011 after Kory Lichtensteiger tore up his knee but he played well down the stretch and when he had to fill in when Tyler Polumbus had the concussion and Jordan Black was suspended at RT last year, Hurt player well vs Philly.
Dezmon Briscoe, WR
In 2012 Dezmon Briscoe was signed after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him in the middle of the off-season. Because of this, he started off behind veterans Garçon, Morgan, Moss & Armstrong. He also started off behind 2nd year players Hankerson and Robinson. Shanahan kept Briscoe last year for a reason. When Cincy put him on waivers in 2011, they were upset when Tampa Bay picked him up for a reason. Everyone believes he has potential to be a very good WR. Last year I remember Briscoe being a surprise member to our 53 man roster because despite him showing well in preseason, there didn’t seem to be room on our roster for a 7th receiver.
Despite that, Briscoe made the roster and Shanahan said in a press conference that he would be excited about what Briscoe can do on the field. Last year he didn’t get any opportunities, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get them this off-season.
I like Briscoe’s potential a lot. I actually like Dez better than both of the WRs we just signed. Briscoe played well as the #3 for the Bucs in 2011 with 35 receptions and 6 TDs in only two starts. Last year he was behind because he missed everything up until training camp but this year Briscoe has a whole year under his belt and is in all camps.
In full disclosure I think Dez Briscoe can be a better version of Hankerson. Watching Briscoe run routes, shield defenders with his big body and snag the ball from the air is just how we all want Hank to play.
Niles Paul, TE
We’ve talked about Niles Paul before when we discussed the depth at the tight end position. He’s our fastest tight end and he’s been working extremely hard at getting stronger (Kerrigan has said this off-season he can’t get around Niles Paul while Paul blocks him), improving his route running as a tight end (remember, before last year he had never played TE in his life), and on catching passes as a tight end. He wasn’t used to how much faster the ball gets to you as a tight end because you are closer to the line of scrimmage and when you turn around often times the ball will be right there.
Ron Brace, DL
Defensive lineman Ron Brace was drafted in 2009 in the second round by the Patriots and everyone expected him to come in and be a dominant force on the Pats DL immediately, but it didn’t work out that way. He has flashed potential at times but other times he disappeared and he has never been able to become a definite starter. Still, Brace does have the talent, size, and strength to be a starter in the NFL and the versatility to play any position along the DL. He has surprising initial quickness off the snap to disrupt the play before it has a chance to begin. He posseses some lateral quickness to slide down the line for a man his size, he uses his hands well. He has good overall strength, especially in his lower body, to hold up at the point of attack. His versatility will give him a good opportunity to make this final roster.
Chris Neild, NT
Nose Tackle Chris Neild flashed some talent as a rookie in 2011, but then he tore his ACL last year during camp. If he can get back to his 2011 form, he could be a wild card who can play stout run defense and apply a little bit of pressure on the opposing QB.
Jordan Pugh, S
Safety Jordan Pugh was brought in mid-season last year, after Tanard Jackson’s year long suspension and Brandon Merriweather’s and Jordan Bernstine’s knee injuries (did I mention that the safety position was a mess last year?). This is not easy for any player, let a lone a young one. Still, Jordan played well enough to get playing time in passing situations over veterans Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes. Pugh may shock some people and make this team. I’ve heard good things about him.
Chase Minnifield, CB
Prior to his senior season at the University of Virginia, draft experts believed Chase Minnifield was a potential first round pick. As with a lot of players who scouts project to be high picks going to their senior season, that player doesn’t quite live up to the scouts lofty expectations of them after the microscope of the NFL draft process. As with our second round pick David Amerson from this year’s draft, by the time draft day came around Minnifield’s stock had fallen to a late second or third round pick.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for us, NFL teams heard that Chase needed micro-fracture surgery to repair his knee prior to the 2012 NFL Draft. This resulted in Chase being an undrafted free agent, which could be a blessing in disguise for the Redskins. Even more unfortunate, during last year’s OTAs, he tore his ACL and spent the 2012 season rehabbing his knee instead of being on the field. This season, Chase is back healthy and is already starting to show the promise he showed last year before tearing his ACL. He made an interception during OTA’s and just like last off-season he is getting praise from both teammates and media alike.
The task of making this years roster for Chase is daunting though because of the Redskins focus on upgrading their DB depth during the 2013 off-season. The Redskins not only return last years starting cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson but they signed free agent EJ Biggers and drafted David Amerson with their 2nd round pick. Word from Redskins Park is Richard Crawford has is having the best off-season of any of the young defensive backs and is improving every day, he also proved to be a good special teams player last year and reliable and dynamic punt returner. I’d say the greatest hope that Chase has of making the roster is if the Redskins decides to keep six corner backs, which is rare, especially with such an experienced and talented group. One thing in Minnifield’s favor is that Wilson, Hall and Biggers will all be free agents in 2014 and if Chase shows starting potential, they may decide to let one of the veterans go in hopes that their younger corner backs are ready to step up and take the next step in their development.
Tom Compton, OL
Tom Compton was the other 6th round pick from last year’s draft that people have forgotten about because Alfred Morris had a pro bowl type year. What people don’t realize is that Compton was a technician coming out of South Dakota and was viewed as a steal when the Redskins selected him in the 6th round of the 2012 Draft. The Redskins believe they may have a long term solution at the right tackle position in Compton but most Redskins fans have not realized that yet. Compton spent most of his 2012 season on the practice squad as he learned and worked on getting stronger. He saw his first action when starter Tyler Polumbus had a concussion last year. The Redskins decided to bring back last years starter Polumbus and two veterans Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood for competition at the right tackle position this off-season but it’s a question as to if any of those players are better than the young talented Compton. There is a belief amongst many that Compton could win the starting right tackle position outright at some point this summer.
Compton is a highly athletic tackle. He has good speed and agility to handle a speed rusher and has added strength to deal with a bull rush. Compton should make the roster either as a starter at right tackle or Trent Williams’ back up this season. Let’s hope it’s the former, and that he can beat out some of these veterans.
Phillip Merling, DL
Phillip Merling was a second round selection of the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL Draft. He never quite lived up to his potential in the NFL thus far. He is on his third chance as last year he was signed by the Green Bay Packers when injuries hit the defensive line hard during the season. A lot of Redskins fans are writing off Merling because he didn’t work initially in Miami as he transitioned from a 4-3 college defensive end to a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. Mike Shanahan has always proven to find second chance success stories throughout his coaching career. He has done so in his time with the Redskins as well from Anthony Armstrong, Kory Lichtensteiger, and Jammal Brown on the offensive side of the ball to fellow defensive lineman Adam Carriker who was viewed as an injury prone bust in St. Louis but came to the Redskins in a trade in 2010 and had two good seasons in 2010 and 2011 for the Jim Haslett and Redskins defense. Merling was starting to come into his own during the 2009 season when he totaled 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Then, before the 2010 season he suffered a torn Achilles’ Tendon and was ruled out for the season, and since that injury his production and games played have dropped off significantly.
Adam Carriker will be starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP list), meaning they can take him off at any time before the start of the season. If they do, he then counts against the 90 player roster limit for training camp. If they don’t take him off the PUP by the start of the season, he then has to sit out for six weeks. At that point, they have three weeks to activate him; if they don’t activate him by Week 9, he’s ends up on IR and is done for the season. With the Redskins losing Doug Worthington to the IR, there is opportunity there for Merling. He will still be in a tough competition with veteran Kedric Golston, Ron Brace, Chris Baker and Chris Neild for two or three open roster spots.
Tanard Jackson, S
In 2012 the Redskins signed Silver Spring, MD native Tanard Jackson after he had been released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is a supremely talented free safety who has become a ball hawk in the NFL. When the Redskins signed Jackson, they expected him to play opposite Brandon Meriweather, but the hopeful tandem didn’t play one game together last season. Unfortunately, he’s battled substance abuse and found himself suspended for the entire 2012 regular season and Meriweather battled a knee injury all year and tore his ACL after a spectacular first half of play vs the Eagles and was lost for the rest of the 2012 season.
The Redskins held onto Jackson’s rights for a reason this off-season, obviously, they believe he has something to offer the team. They still have him under contract for one season if/when Jackson’s suspension is lifted by Commissioner Goodell. If Jackson can have his suspension lifted for the 2013 season he could have the inside track to start at the free safety position opposite strong safety Meriweather based off his talent and NFL experience with the cover two scheme in his time with Raheem Morris in Tampa.
Prior to Jackson’s suspension, he looked great with the Redskins during their 2012 off-season and during a few preseason games. On top of that, Jackson and rookie Bacarri Rambo are the only true free safeties on the team. Having interchangeable safeties is nice, but having a player that can be play deep center and cover the entire field is something he Redskins haven’t had since Sean Taylor.
Jordan Bernstine, S
We’ve talked a lot about Bernstine before the draft, but not much since. If Bernstine can get healthy, he could be a wild card for us and make one of our veteran safeties expendable. Bernstine has all the skills you want in a safety. He’s big, fast, aggressive, can tackle well and has good ball skills. Don’t forget, he did make our 53 man roster last year. There’s just been one problem with Bernstine dating back to his first days at Iowa, he just can NOT stay healthy. If Bernstine can get and stay healthy for us, there is nothing that can hold him back as he has the potential to be a starter in this league. The coaches put him on IR after he hurt his knee and didn’t cut him for a reason, and the training staff worked diligently with him for 9 months rehabbing for a reason. Again, if being the main thing, but IF he can get healthy, Bernstine should have a real shot to not only make this roster, but have the opportunity to contribute often.
In the end, there is no guarantee that any of the players on this list make the Redskins final 53 man roster. It is definitely a good thing that the Redskins have competition and talent on their 90 man roster. During the Vinny Cerrato era and in Shanahan’s first year in 2010, the Redskins found themselves watching the waiver wire looking for bodies to fill out their roster. That is no longer the case as the front office has done a good job putting together solid competition at most positions. Much like last season, this season the Skins will have to make extremely tough decisions.