Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart now that the team’s offseason program has concluded.
Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Sept. 5.
So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …
Position: Defensive end.
On the roster: Jason Hatcher, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean-Francois, Chris Baker, Frank Kearse, Kedric Golston, Corey Crawford and Travian Robertson.
Likely to make the 53: Hatcher, Paea, Jean-Francois, Baker and Kearse.
Comment: Paea and Hatcher are expected to be the starters at left and right end, respectively. Paea, who recorded a career-high six sacks in Chicago last season, was signed by new GM Scot McCloughan moments into free agency to help bolster the Redskins’ pass rush. The 27-year-old replaces Jarvis Jenkins, who notched only two sacks in 44 career games as a Redskin and was not re-signed.
Behind Paea and Hatcher, the Washington figures to have some quality depth in the form of Baker, Jean-Francois and Kearse. Baker is versatile; he stepped in for injured nose tackle Barry Cofield last season but is more effective as an end. Jean-Francois started 23 of the 26 games in which he suited up the previous two seasons in Indianapolis. Kearse, meantime, showed some pass rush potential in limited playing time last season, notching three sacks during a six game span early on.
Battling for a job: Golston, Crawford and Robertson.
Comment: The Redskins kept seven defensive linemen at the final cutdown last season but just six in 2013. And with a new general manager, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach this year, it’s tough to project how many they’ll keep.
Assuming they keep seven, and assuming Hatcher, Paea, Jean-Francois, Baker, Kearse and starting nose tackle Terrance Knighton all make the cut, that would leave one spot open.
The Redskins recently signed veteran Jerrell Powe to compete as a backup nose tackle. Golston, meantime, plays end as well as nose and on special teams. At 32, Golston is a respected voice in the locker room and the longest tenured player on the Redskins’ roster (nine seasons). But he’ll also need to hold off challenges from youngsters like Crawford, an drafted rookie out of Clemson, and Robertson, a 26-year-old reserve who’s bounced around.
As always, it’ll come down to a numbers game for the backups. Being able to help at more than one position will help—a lot.