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Redskins 2017 roster battles: Depth at safety will be critical as Cravens, Swearinger adapt

Redskins 2017 roster battles: Depth at safety will be critical as Cravens, Swearinger adapt

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

ROSTER BATTLES:  Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back  | Wide receiver


The contenders:

This is a different kind of competition. It seems that both starters are set with D.J. Swearinger at free safety and Su’a Cravens at strong. The issue is, neither one of the safeties has played his position full time in the NFL. Swearinger was a strong safety for the first three years of his NFL career before playing some free in certain situations with the Cardinals last year. Cravens was a nickel linebacker as a rookie in 2016.

The depth behind the starters will be critical. There may have to be a lot of situational substitution if Swearinger and Cravens struggle in their new roles. At free safety, veterans DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon both return. Blackmon started six games at free last year while Hall, the starter going into the season, went out after three games with a torn ACL. Josh Evans, who was on the roster for a few games last year but didn’t play a defensive snap, started 36 games at free and strong safety for the Jaguars. Fourth-round rookie Montae Nicholson could be of some help here but it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to contribute much in 2017.

There aren’t as many options at strong safety. As noted, Evans is versatile as is Swearinger. Deshazor Everett appeared to be on the verge of earning some significant playing time last year but he ended up with just 40 snaps.

And the winner is . . .

Tandler: If you gave truth serum to Greg Manusky and defensive backs coach Torian Gray, both probably would tell you that they have major concerns here. It’s one thing to project that a player can handle a position switch or a major change in responsibilities. But you don’t know how it will work out until the games start.

I think that the uncertainty here helps veterans Hall and Blackmon. Although Hall had just converted to safety after a long career at cornerback he can handle free safety. Blackmon was solid during his starts at safety and his ability to fill in at any cornerback spot is a huge plus.

They kept five safeties last year so who gets the last slot? Everett is very valuable on special teams but Evans’ experience may give him an edge.

Finlay: Like Tandler said, the plan is for Swearinger and Cravens to be the starting safeties. Hall will need to rework his deal, he's due more than $4 million this season and has been hurt more than he's played in the last two years. Former GM Scot McCloughan used to describe Blackmon as a "Swiss Army knife" and his versatily will earn him a roster spot in the last year of his contract.

Everett has far more upside than Evans, and last season Everett forced his way onto the Redskins roster and played in all 16 games. Remember, too, that Everett will have a new DBs coach and a new D-coordinator. That could mean new opportunities for the hard-hitter. The wildcard in this roster battle will be the rookie Nicholson. He has good size and speed for the NFL, but questionable tackling ability. His injury could land him on the PUP list, which would give the Redskins some roster flexibility early in the 2017 season. Eventually, though, the 'Skins will have more safeties than roster spots, assuming no major injuries. 

Cravens and Swearinger are roster locks. That much is certain. After that, there will be a lot to watch in Richmond at the safety spot. 

RELATED: Should Redskins fans concerned there is no GM yet?

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Expect Redskins to bring back Trey Quinn next week as Jamison Crowder's status remains unclear

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Expect Redskins to bring back Trey Quinn next week as Jamison Crowder's status remains unclear

The Redskins need help at wide receiver, and while head coach Jay Gruden allowed a potential trade might bolster the group, the return of rookie Trey Quinn might do the same. 

Quinn landed on the injured reserve after the season opener in Arizona when he injured his ankle on a punt return. The IR designation means Quinn must miss eight weeks of action but can return after that period. 

"We’ll get Trey Quinn back here pretty soon," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Quinn could be back as early as Week 9 against Atlanta, and it sounds like Gruden expects to see him then.

A record setter at SMU and the final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Quinn's return could immediately help the Redskins at their inside slot receiver position. Jamison Crowder has missed the last two games for Washington, and reports say he could miss a few more weeks. 

Of the trio of injured Redskins skill players, Chris Thompson, Paul Richardson, and Crowder, Gruden said the slot WR has "probably got the furthest to go" before he can return from injury. Last week, Crowder was spotted in the Redskins practice facility riding a scooter and with a boot on his ankle. 

With Crowder out an elongated period of time, Quinn could step right in. Both on the smaller side and more quick than fast, Quinn is best suited to play the inside receiver position and can also return punts.

Asked if Quinn is a natural fit to fill in for Crowder, Gruden replied, "exactly right."

Fellow rookie receiver Cam Sims also landed on the IR after Week 1, but Gruden did not indicate that he would be brought back on the same timeline as Quinn. 

"We’ll probably just take one of them. Right now I think Trey is probably closer to returning than Cam ."

NFL rules stipulate that the team can bring only two players back from the injured reserve over the course of a season. So if the 'Skins bring back Quinn as soon as he is eligible next week, it makes sense for the organization to wait before using their final retrievable IR slot on another wide receiver.

Gruden's comments make two things clear: The organization sees Quinn back on the 53-man roster ASAP, and Crowder's return seems to be a serious question mark. 

Washington also seems likely to have a roster spot for Quinn next week. Special teams ace Jehu Chesson has already been up and down on the Redskins roster twice, and it would be little surprise if Quinn's return means Chesson gets released. Should that happen, Washington might again try to bring Chesson back to their practice squad. 



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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.