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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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Five key plays in the Redskins’ big win over the Packers

Five key plays in the Redskins’ big win over the Packers

There are about 150 plays in an NFL game and all of them are important. But some of them matter to the outcome more than others. Here are five of the key plays in the Redskins’ win over the Packers.

Q1, 13:02—Alex Smith pass deep middle to Paul Richardson for 46 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 

During the week, Smith was taking fire from all directions after having thrown mostly check down passes in the Redskins’ first two games. He aired it out early against Green Bay. Three plays into their first possession the Redskins had a first down at the Packers 46. Richardson had a couple of steps on his defenders deep down the middle and Smith launched it. The receiver had to slide on his knees to make the catch at around the five-yard line. He immediately popped up without being touched and lunged into the end zone to give the home team a lead it would never relinquish. 

Q2, 7:13—Smith pass deep middle to Jordan Reed to WAS 40 for 34 yards 

On the Redskins’ previous possession, Smith had thrown his first interception of the year. It didn’t cost them points but the turnover did flip field position as the Packers’ ensuing punt was downed at the two-yard line. It was third and six at the six. Smith dropped back and fired to Reed down the middle for the first down. Reed got some good yards after the catch with a couple of nice moves and the Redskins were in business. On the next play, Adrian Peterson rolled for 41 yards off the right side and suddenly they were in the red zone. Four plays later Smith threw a laser beam to Jamison Crowder for a touchdown to make it 21-3.

Q2, 2:00—Smith pass deep right to Vernon Davis pushed ob at GB 21 for 50 yards 

The Packers responded quickly to the Crowder touchdown as Aaron Rodgers threw a 64-yard TD bomb to close the gap to 21-10. The fans at FedEx Field barely had time to get nervous. On the second play in their ensuing possession, Smith found Davis open deep down the right sideline and the QB dropped a dime. That got the Redskins just outside the red zone. A pass to Jamison Crowder made it first and goal at the three, and two plays later Ryan Anderson was the lead blocker on Peterson’s second two-yard TD plunge of the game. 

Q3, 2:33—Rodgers pass short left to Randall Cobb to WAS 40 for 3 yards. Washington challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was REVERSED.

The offense built the lead and it was up to the defense to make sure it was preserved. The Packers drove to a touchdown on their first possession on the second half, and after a Washington three and out they were on the move again. On fourth and two at the Redskins 43, the Packers went for it. Rodgers’ short pass to Cobb got them just over the line to gain. But Redskins defenders in the vicinity emphatically signaled incomplete and assistant defensive backs coach James Rowe got into Jay Gruden’s ear on the headset and told him to challenge the call. It turned out that the ball squirted out and hit the ground while Cobb was trying to get control. The Redskins took over on downs. 

Q4, 5:32—Rodgers pass short right to Cobb to GB 47 for 1 yard. FUMBLES forced by Fabian Moreau RECOVERED by WAS- Josh Norman at GB 46. 

It was still a two-score game with enough time left for one of Rodgers’ patented miracle finishes. The Packers were near midfield when Rodgers went to Cobb on the right side near the line. The defense immediately swarmed over the receivers, and as he was going down Moreau pried the ball from Cobb’s grasp. It popped up in the air and Norman grabbed it out of the air. The Redskins killed 3:25 of the clock, forced the Packers to use all of their timeouts, and Dustin Hopkins kicked a field goal to put the Redskins up by 14 with 1:58 left to play. 

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Need to Know: Stock up, stock down for the Redskins’ win over Packers

Need to Know: Stock up, stock down for the Redskins’ win over Packers

Here is what you need to know on Monday, September 24, 14 days before the Washington Redskins visit the New Orleans Saints.  

Talking points

Here are some players who saw their stock go up during the Redskins’ impressive win over the Packers and some who saw their stock drop.

Stock up—For the third straight game, DE Matt Ioannidis got a sack. There are many who say that Jamison Crowder is the best late-round gem that Scot McCloughan found in his two drafts as the general manager of the Redskins. But you may have to consider Ioannidis for that title. He was a fifth-round pick who now has 7.5 sacks in the last season plus three games. The Temple product also is a stout run defender. 

Stock down—Right tackle Morgan Moses had to leave the game with a concussion in the first quarter and Ty Nsekhe came in. The substitute got flagged for at least three penalties including a couple of false starts and a holding penalty that cost them field position in the second half. There is a myth going around that he’s just as good as Moses and Trent Williams. He’s good enough to have as a swing tackle, but don’t think that there is not a considerable drop off when he enters the game. 

Stock up—During the past week QB Alex Smith took plenty of fire for being a check-down type of quarterback. He didn’t really stretch the field in the first two games. His only completion of over 34 yards came on a short pass that Adrian Peterson turned into a 53-yard gain. Sunday he aired it out a couple of times with a 46-yard TD bomb to Paul Richardson on the opening drive. In the second quarter, he dropped a dime to Vernon Davis, who was streaking down the right sideline. That play was good for 50 yards and it helped set a touchdown that gave the Redskins a comfortable 28-10 halftime lead. Smith completed 12 of 20 passes for 220 yards, an impressive 11 yards per attempt. 

Stock down—It wouldn't be accurate to say that WR Josh Doctson didn't have an impact on the game. He drew two pass interference flags that helped a scoring drive including one in the end zone that set up Adrian Peterson’s two-yard touchdown run that lifted the Redskins to a 14-0 advantage. But a first-round draft pick needs to have more impact than that. He was targeted three times and he did not catch a pass. He is running out of time to get that breakout year he needs in this third NFL season. 

Stock up—TE Jordan Reed didn’t catch a ton of passes but his four receptions for 64 yards had an impact. In particular, a pass he caught in the second quarter created a swing. The Redskins faced third and six from their own six. Smith went to Reed over the middle about 20 yards downfield. Reed caught the pass, eluded some tacklers with a couple of nice moves, and ended up with a 34-yard gain. That got the Redskins going on a 98-yard touchdown drive. That was their longest touchdown drive since a game against the Bears in 1999 when they drove 99 yards for a TD.

Injury report

OT Morgan Moses left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. 

The agenda

Today: Open locker room 11:30 a.m.; Jay Gruden press conference 

Upcoming:Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 14 days; Panthers @ Redskins 20; Cowboys @ Redskins 27

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