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Recent Redskins roster decisions at WR, RB baffling in light of Simmie Cobbs departure

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USA Today Sports

Recent Redskins roster decisions at WR, RB baffling in light of Simmie Cobbs departure

The Redskins lost practice squad wide receiver Simmie Cobbs this week after the New Orleans Saints claimed the undrafted rookie

On its own, that's not major news. Cobbs showed promise in training camp and many around Redskins Park believe he has made a lot of progress working on the scout team this fall. 

Losing practice squad players happens, but the circumstances around Cobbs' departure are unique. For starters, the Redskins tried to keep Cobbs, but he decided to leave for New Orleans anyway.

On the surface, that move is obvious: Play with Drew Brees on a Super Bowl contender or play with a fourth-string QB on a team riding a four-game losing streak. 

Dig deeper, however, and it's not that simple. None of this is. 

Cobbs chose to go to a new team and a new city rather than the squad that signed him out of Indiana University.

Cobbs chose to learn a new playbook and new terminology with just three weeks remaining in the regular season rather than play in the offense he knows and has been practicing since May. 

As Cobbs explained, it bothered him that the Redskins did not want to sign him until New Orleans made a move. He called it a "no-brainer" to go to New Orleans. 

Frankly, Cobbs is right. 

For weeks, the Redskins have carried a bizarre five running backs on their 53-man roster, even as injuries forced significant churn on the offensive line. Washington has not kept more than three running backs active on game day, yet two more sit occupying roster spots. Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson are absolute roster locks, but beyond that, none of the other rostered players have performed in a manner forcing the 'Skins to keep them. 

Samaje Perine has only been active four games this season, and those were mostly due to injury. He has five carries this year. The Redskins decided to use one of their two injured reserve return designations for Byron Marshall, who has three carries on the season and is best known at this point for a key block he missed on the play that broke Alex Smith's leg. Kapri Bibbs has played relatively well in limited work, but in last week's loss to the Giants, he was inactive with Perine. 

Add all of that up and it appears the Redskins have at least one more running back than they need. In their defense, Thompson's lingering ribs injury forced Washington to play it safe at running back for a number of weeks, but Thompson has now been back on the field for the last two games.

What does all of this mean for Cobbs? 

Building a 53-man roster is like a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece must fit with the others, and players on the back end of the roster must be able to help on special teams. 

Cobbs would fit that bill. And this week seemed like the obvious time to bring him up as Josh Doctson worked his way back from the concussion protocol and the team was carrying just five WRs total. 

It's not like Washington was getting a lot of production at the receiver position anyway. Doctson's roster spot is locked in, as is Jamison Crowder's but after that are questions. Mauirce Harris has always shown great hands but he's been on and off the Redskins roster. Veteran Michael Floyd was a midseason addition that has five catches in 10 games. Brian Quick and Jehu Chesson are both primarily special teams players. 

Cobbs, on the other hand, is an intriguing rookie with size and potential. The Redskins are 6-7, and while still in the hunt for the final Wild Card spot, the team is starting a fourth-string QB and playing their fifth and sixth-string guards.

Now isn't the time to take chances on an undrafted rookie; two weeks ago was.

Remember two weeks ago, when the Redskins only used 52 of 53 roster spots for a Monday night loss in Philadelphia? The team literally didn't fill out their full roster. 

Let's not confuse Cobbs with Jerry Rice quite yet, but at the same time, let's look at the big picture.

The Redskins roster has been a mess due to injury, that's understandable. The team has been forced to carry more offensive linemen than expected, and the running back situation clearly dragged longer than the brass could have expected. At least, that's what fans should hope happened with the running back situation. 

Regardless, the Redskins reluctance to give Cobbs a chance, even without much production or potential on the bottom of the WR depth chart, made his decision to join the Saints an easy one. 

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Redskins Free Agent Targets: Darqueze Dennard

Redskins Free Agent Targets: Darqueze Dennard

NBC Sports Washington is taking a long look at potential free agents that could help the Redskins in 2020. 

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard
2014 first-round pick by Cincinnati
Unrestricted free agent
5-foot-11 | 200 lbs. | 28 years old

Cornerback is a significant need for the Washington Redskins and one they were likely expected to address in free agency. With the release of veteran Josh Norman last Friday, upgrading the position now becomes a necessity. 

One cornerback the Burgundy and Gold should target in free agency is a name many Redskins fans are not familiar with: Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

The 28-year-old was drafted in 2014 and has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the Bengals. During his time in Cinci, he played the majority of his snaps from the slot but proved he has the ability to play on the outside as well. The 5-foot-11 cornerback has a strong frame and is one of the best at his position defending the run. 

Injuries have hampered Dennard throughout his career, but he's been productive when on the field.

Last season, although he played in just nine games, Dennard posted the 15th best coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. The 28-year-old excelled in coverage downfield, allowing just four catches of 10 or more yards all season. In contrast, Redskins' cornerbacks posted the fourth-worst grade by PFF in such situations.

Dennard was a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but never blossomed to the shutdown cornerback the Bengals hoped they drafted. Nonetheless, he's a very viable starter and one that could greatly benefit a Washington secondary that struggled mightily a season ago.

As it stands now, the Redskins starters at cornerback are Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau starting on the outside with Jimmy Moreland in the slot. 

Dunbar, who had a career-best season a year ago, was rumored to request a trade from the Redskins a couple of weeks ago. He later backtracked on his statement, saying the situation had been blown out of proportion.

Regardless, Dunbar enters his final season under contract with Washington and has zero guarantees remaining in his contract; there's no assurance he's back with Washington in 2021 and beyond. Moreau also enters the final season of his rookie year as well.

So, the Redskins likely need to sign at least one, if not two, cornerbacks in free agency. Dennard could be an ideal fit and a cheaper option than other cornerbacks on the market.

Head coach Ron Rivera said that part of the reason he released Norman was so the team could get younger at the position, and at 28, Dennard still has plenty of football ahead of him.

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Questions facing Ron Rivera: What will cornerback look like now that Josh Norman is gone?

Questions facing Ron Rivera: What will cornerback look like now that Josh Norman is gone?

With Josh Norman no longer a Redskin and Quinton Dunbar seemingly unhappy with his standing on the team, cornerback is an issue that's rising up Ron Rivera's lengthy to-do list.

Finding a solution to the Trent Williams dilemma, making sure Dwayne Haskins has what he needs to succeed and figuring out what to do with the No. 2 draft pick are all likely ahead of fixing corner on the coach's list, and rightly so.

That said, he probably now has circled CB and drawn an upward arrow next to it, indicating its increasing prominence.

The Norman release was an easy place for the team's new leader to begin. While it would've been intriguing to see Rivera try to reinvigorate Norman's career, No. 24's age, decline in speed and salary all made him extremely expendable. Still, it does mean the franchise is now without a DB who started the overwhelming majority of games in the past four seasons.

Next, Rivera will have to get an idea about how another starter is feeling.

While Dunbar has apparently backed off his recent trade demand, it's clear he's not pleased with the money he's making and is also a bit insecure about where he stands in this new version of the organization. Can Rivera change his opinion, either by initiating a contract adjustment or calming Dunbar's mind about his future, or will the receiver-turned-defender be moved this offseason, too?

The ending of that storyline will obviously impact the entire depth chart in a big way.

Those are the two important secondary pieces who wore Burgundy and Gold in 2019 that Rivera focused on (in Norman's case) or will soon focus on (in Dunbar's case). Others from 2019, like Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland, will return and contribute in their own right.

But there are also lots of guys who wore lots of different colors last year who'll soon be worth monitoring in free agency as well. Fortunately, there'll be plenty of targets for Rivera and Kyle Smith, depending on how aggressive they want to be.

There are the well-known names who are about to cash in, like James Bradberry, a former Panther who's already stated that he wouldn't mind a reunion with Rivera if he can't work out a deal with Carolina. Chris Harris also falls into this classification.

Then there are some mid-tier options, such as Bashaud Breeland. Breeland was drafted by the Redskins and recently won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs. He also was slated to sign with the then Rivera-coached Panthers a few offseasons ago before a fluky injury voided that agreement. Bradley Roby and Darqueze Dennard are in a similar place as Breeland.

Beyond those groups, there are even cheaper free agents as well as later draft picks. Looking ahead, as long as the Redskins keep the second pick in this April's draft, they won't be selecting a cornerback. That, plus the fact that they don't have a second-rounder as of now, means whatever prospects they end up with will come later in the event.

As two former linebackers, Rivera and Jack Del Rio surely understand the significance of fortifying and in turn want to fortify the front line of their defense, and they are one Chase Young choice away from doing so. They'll also be keen on improving their old stomping grounds to ensure the middle of the unit is reliable.

However, cornerback can't be overlooked. With the way the NFL has slanted toward the offense during the last decade and the continued influx of talent at wideout and tight end, having multiple corners who can match up with those pass catchers is a must. Because of that, corner should certainly be close to the center of Rivera's mind.

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