Football Team

Roster questions that remain after Washington's preseason finale

Football Team

It's best if Washington's preseason finale against the Ravens on Saturday night is not spoken of again. So, instead of focusing on the disappointing blowout at FedEx Field, let's instead look toward what roster questions Ron Rivera is still facing as the team's head coach with cuts looming on Tuesday.

Who are the returners?

The hope was that Saturday would provide some insight into whom deserves to be the Burgundy and Gold's returners.

However, the leaky second- and third-string defense had its issues in getting the Ravens off the field, meaning there isn't much tape to evaluate when it comes to punt returns. As for the kickoff unit, nothing positive or negative enough happened to vault someone up or knock them out of contention.

So, Rivera will have to decide between DeAndre Carter, who has the most pro experience at both spots, or some combination of Danny Johnson, Jaret Patterson and Dax Milne to handle those duties. It won't be an easy choice, and unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there's a true game-breaker in the race. 

Who's the last wideout?

The aforementioned Carter and Milne each have a shot to sneak onto Washington's receiver depth chart, but Antonio Gandy-Golden might've clinched it with his second-consecutive solid outing.

After hauling in three balls as well as a two-pointer versus the Bengals last week, the former fourth-round choice snagged four more receptions for 39 yards on Saturday. Those back-to-back efforts, plus his size at what's largely a position full of shorter, quicker targets, may be enough to convince Rivera to bring him back for a second year. 

 

Milne certainly has an appealing skill set of his own — and his 26-yard grab down the right sideline versus Baltimore was absolutely Sunday caliber — but remember, he was the penultimate pick in the recent NFL Draft. He should be able to make it to the practice squad and then be pulled up later on if need be.

Or, Rivera could always go the unconventional route and keep seven here. That would mean that two out of Carter, Milne and Gandy-Golden could join Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown and Cam Sims (the first four are locks and Sims is likely safe). That'd be unexpected, but it's a small possibility. 

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Who's the fourth defensive end?

Chase Young and Montez Sweat will play, and shine on, the majority of snaps at defensive end for Rivera and Jack Del Rio in 2021. But they'll need to be spelled on a couple of downs per contest, and after James Smith-Williams, there's no clear option for the fourth gig.

Daniel Wise has been mentioned a couple of times as of late, but his next meaningful snap will also function as his first one. Casey Toohill has been out with an injury for multiple weeks, meanwhile. The two seventh-rounders William Bradley-King and Shaka Toney need more development.

With that somewhat uninspiring slew of names, it wouldn't be surprising to see Rivera pluck a veteran off the free-agent market or waivers once cuts start coming down across the league. If he doesn't and elects to go with someone already in house, then that guy will be stepping into a role with very little (Toohill has at least played nine times in the NFL) or no past action to stand on.

How does tight end shake out?

Logan Thomas is going to be a critical player for this offense in 2021, while John Bates will be on the 53-man roster as a niche contributor. After them, though, it's a mystery.

Ricky Seals-Jones, Sammis Reyes and Caleb Wilson were all quiet on Saturday in the passing attack and with how poorly Washington ran the ball, they probably didn't do a whole lot as blockers. 

Will Rivera put Reyes on the 53 so as not to expose him to other franchises? Or will he roll the dice in that regard and retain Seals-Jones, who's got 41 matchups and eight touchdowns on his résumé? That answer, as well as the others in this story, will be known soon.