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RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

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USA Today Sports

RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

Too much attention gets paid to roster construction during training camp. Projecting the 53-man roster has become its own August cottage industry, much like Bracketology flourishes in March.

The truth of the matter is regardless of projections, more than anything else, injuries dictate what players ultimately land on the Week 1 roster. 

Right now, that is apparent with the Redskins' running back position. Derrius Guice headlined the group after Washington grabbed him in the second round of April's NFL Draft. After injuring his knee in the first preseason game, however, Guice won't play in 2018. 

That means the other five guys battling for a spot now move up in the pecking order. Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson will make the team, even though Thompson is yet to play in the preseason and is still battling back from a broken leg last November. 

Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall, and Kapri Bibbs played with the 'Skins last season and were locked in a tense battle for spots. Then, Perine and Marshall got hurt Thursday night. Perine is expected to miss a week, while Marshall could miss up to four weeks. 

Can both Perine and Marshall still make the Redskins 53-man roster? 

Of course. 

Is that a certainty? Definitely not. 

Bibbs gets a major opportunity now, and he has looked good so far in camp and preseason games. Additionally, for Bibbs, it often gets lost that he actually played well in Washington last season. In three games he had more than 200 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. 

If Marshall truly needs a month to get his lower leg injury settled, that won't be until after the deadline to trim rosters. The Redskins could move him to the injured reserve list before then, but that would mean Marshall would not be eligible to play for the Burgundy and Gold until Week 7. Also, the team only gets two moves off of IR for the season. Would they want to use one on their fourth running back?

Perine's injury situation seems less severe, and barring a setback or further injury, he will be on the roster. 

That means Thompson, Kelley, Perine, and Bibbs. Maybe Marshall too, but that will be determined by his rehab schedule. 

Martez Carter made impressive runs against the Jets, and while it seems easy to dismiss his roster candidacy, remember Rob Kelley was an undrafted free agent out of a small Louisiana school just a few years ago.

Complicating matters is the reality that Washington's front office is absolutely going to be watching what other NFL teams do at roster cut time. Other running backs could emerge, especially from teams like Detroit that already have a crowded running back room and added more players via the draft. 

Coaches like to say competition on the field is what makes roster decisions. And yes, that's a big part of it. The violent nature of the NFL, the ultimate Next Man Up league, plays a huge factor as well. 

Trimming a roster because of injuries doesn't mean there aren't mistakes made. It sure looks like Washington screwed up last year by cutting QB Nate Sudfeld, even though the team felt compelled to keep extra offensive linemen. 

It might be trite, but the NFL is a long, grueling season. The Redskins know that. The team lost more players to injury than any other NFL squad last season. 

So when looking at 53-man roster projections, know there are two more preseason games left, and sad but likely, more injuries to come. 

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In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

Bryce Love hopes he'll have the opportunity to carry many footballs in his NFL career. But this past weekend, the running back picked up something that'll be just as, if not more, valuable than the attempts he'll be getting on Sundays.

How's a college diploma from Stanford sound? Pretty solid, right?

Oh, how about a college diploma from Stanford in human biology? Yeah, probably something worth hanging up on the ol' fridge, huh?

Well, that very hard-earned and impressive degree is what Love is now in possession of:

Drafted by the Redskins in late-April and walking across the stage at Stanford in mid-June, Love is doing well for himself recently. He passed up the chance to enter the draft early to ensure he graduated, and now he has.

His college GPA isn't known, but once you find out his high school GPA was 4.5 (that's apparently possible) and add that to the fact that he was able to finish up school out west while also churning up yards for the Cardinal, you can imagine it was very, very good. And if his yards-per-carry average as a pro matches or exceeds it, then the Redskins will be thrilled.

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There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

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Redskins Nation

There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

If you find yourself looking for Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis, you really just need to find one of them. Odds are, if you locate one, the other two will be close by.

The second-year pro, third-year pro, and fourth-year pro have forged quite a bond on the Redskins' defensive line, which is easily the team's most promising unit going into 2019. The three guys share an appreciation for lifting really heavy weights and dropping opposing quarterbacks. 

As it turns out, that latter love is actually part of the inspiration behind a bet Payne, Allen and Ioannidis have queued up for the 2019 campaign. Payne revealed that while with Larry Michael on a recent episode of Redskins Nation.

"Me and Jon and Matt got a little competition right now on sacks and tackles," he said with a smile, but he ultimately didn't shed any light on what the competition's compensation will be.

Whatever the trio is playing for, it should be a close race.

Ryan Kerrigan led the 'Skins in sacks in 2018, but Allen (8), Ioannidis (7.5) and Payne (5) were second, third and fourth respectively. In terms of tackles, meanwhile, it went Allen (61), Payne (56) and then Ioannidis (31). 

Allen and Payne saw a ton of snaps last year while Ioannidis was used more in a rotational role, which limited his tackles. He's an insanely productive pass rusher, though, so he can make up some ground in the sacks/tackles bet by keeping that trend going. Any of them are a solid pick if you're trying to project who'll capture their title.

Payne, for one, expects to generate better numbers in his second go-round in the league.

"Of course," he responded when Michael asked if he left some sacks out there as a rookie. "Definitely did. I want to get a couple more."

In the team's offseason practices, he's already noticed that things are "coming easier," so perhaps he'll be able to record those extra takedowns he's looking for.

As mentioned earlier, you can make an easy case for Payne, Allen or Ioannidis to win their competition, but you won't know who that winner is until late December.

One thing you can already say, however? That the QBs and running backs they'll be chasing down are the losers in this thing. That much is already known.

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