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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Safety

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Safety

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

So far we’ve looked at the defensive line, outside linebackers, cornerbacks, and inside linebackers.  Today the focus turns to safeties.

2016 final game starters: Duke Ihenacho, Will Blackmon

Neither was the planned starter at the beginning of the year. DeAngelo Hall was put in injured reserve in Week 4 and David Bruton was put in IR and later released.

Departures: Ihenacho, Donte Whitner (unsigned)

The Redskins showed no interest in bringing back Ihenacho, who started 10 games. The word was that the coaches thought that he freelanced too much and he led the team in missed tackles with 15 even though nine defenders played more snaps.

Whitner started nine games after being signed off the street in Week 5, a statement on how desperate the Redskins were for any kind of help. The Redskins have not shown any interest in his return.

Projected 2017 starters: Su’a Cravens, D.J. Swearinger

The move of Cravens from nickel linebacker to safety will be among the most scrutinized changes during the offseason program, in training camp, and the regular season. Speed is the primary concern. He ran a 4.69 in the 40 last year at his pro day. Only three safeties at last year’s combine ran a slower time. Jay Gruden said recently that he is confident in Cravens’ play speed; we will see how it turns out.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 8.0

Swearinger will line up at free safety. He was primarily a hard-hitting strong safety in his first two years in the NFL. After joining the Cardinals late in the 2015 season he began to play some free. The Redskins apparently liked what they saw on film enough to sign Swearinger to a free-agent contract. His ability to play in space as the last line of defense also will be under the microscope this year.  

2017 reserves: DeAngelo Hall, Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, Josh Evans

This is a shaky group. Hall will be 34 before the season ends and he has missed significant time due to injuries in each of the last three years. Blackmon played pretty well in six starts but he turns 33 around midseason.

MORE REDSKINS: Team announces preseason opponents

Evans is an interesting prospect. He was signed in Week 5, cut two weeks later, and then re-signed for the final game. Although he didn’t play a defensive snap in Washington he did start 36 games in three seasons in Jacksonville. Since Hall and Blackmon both converted from cornerback to safety just last year so Evans is by far the most experienced backup safety on the roster.

Everett, also a converted cornerback, played just 40 snaps on defense, all in the last four games. He got a key interception against the Eagles in his first appearance. The third-year player will be an interesting project to watch.   

Where can the safeties find improvement?

I think that the two new starters are the obvious path to improvement. In Cravens and Swearinger the Redskins will start two young safeties who have the potential to be around and improve for the next several years. There may be some bumps at the outset but the hope is that they can be a solid tandem.

This year’s draft in unusual in that it is strong at the safety position. With Hall and Blackmon unlikely to be around in 2018, the Redskins could use some depth at the position. If they take one early, it would take some creativity for Greg Manusky and new defensive backs coach Torian Gray to work him into the lineup. But it would be one of those good problems to have.

Locks and bubble players

Swearinger and Cravens are the only sure locks. Hall probably is, too, assuming he rebounds from his ACL tear and makes a downward adjustment to his $4.25 million salary.

The team will keep four or five safeties so Blackmon, Everett, and Evans all could stay. But adding a draft pick to the mix could have them competing for the remaining one or two roster spots.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

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-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

 

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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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