With the Washington Redskins’ first preseason game just days away, the team released its first unofficial depth chart on Monday.
This is by no means etched in stone, incapable of being changed. The Redskins have yet to even play an opponent yet. It is, simply put, a starting point, an organized table to provide some order to what’s been a very fluid, competitive 10 days of training camp.
Head coach Jay Gruden made it clear during his first press conference that the evaluation process, one constantly in flux and changing over the next few weeks, would be meritocratic.
“That’s the goal,” he said prior to the start of camp. “We don’t have any factors here other than the best player will make the football team. Anybody that knows me knows that it doesn’t matter if you’re a first round pick or a free agent, rookie free agent, so it doesn’t matter everyone is going to get an opportunity we’ll play the best guy.”
With multiple players working their way back on various timelines from offseason surgeries, Gruden knows that a true understanding of what his team could look like won’t come at the start of the preseason, but he feels confident about the depth at every position thus far.
That includes safety, where D.J. Swearinger Sr. and Montae Nicholson return to headline what has normally been a position in constant flux over the past few years. The same is true of the inside linebackers, where Zach Brown and Mason Foster are projected to start and team together after Foster missed the majority of last year with a shoulder injury.
Then of course there’s new quarterback Alex Smith, the offseason acquisition that will lead the offense under center and be protected by an offensive line that has held onto most of its starters from last season and looks to kick the injury bug away in 2018.
“I don't think we really have any glaring weakness,” Gruden said. “I think we have addressed a lot of them throughout the draft and free agency and then guys veteran guys here, and I think our depth has been addressed, so now it's just a matter of just going out and playing together.”
Here are some additional observations from the first unofficial Redskins depth chart this season. It should be noted that defensive lineman Stacy McGee and cornerback Joshua Holsey are not listed on the depth chart currently as they remain on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and the Active/Non-Football Injury list, respectively.
The Washington Redskins conducted their ninth day of training camp practice Saturday, August 5, 2018 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
-- Arguably the most debated position group is at running back where, after Chris Thompson and second-round pick Derrius Guice, there still remain questions – who will break out, how many will the team carry, etc.? One thing that’s clear is that they’re all talented runners capable of being on an NFL roster. As of now, Thompson leads the group followed by pairings of Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs and Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, then Guice and Martez Carter. As the preseason unfolds, this should become a clearer picture.
-- Outside of the quarterback position – Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Kevin Hogan – the most predictable group of first-stringers belongs on the offensive line, where Trent Williams and Morgan Moses bookend left guard Shawn Lauvao, center Chase Roullier and right guard Brandon Scherff. Considering last year’s slate of injuries, backups are crucial, and as it stands now Ty Nsekhe and Geron Christian Sr. are next in line at each tackle position with Tony Bergstrom ready to be the primary backup for Roullier at center.
-- One of the few breakouts at the wide receiver position has been Brian Quick, who despite not being targeted much last season has developed a good rapport with both Smith and McCoy thus far. He sits behind Josh Doctson, who has missed some time recently with a shoulder injury. Maurice Harris and Robert Davis have also had strong camps and sit on the second unit behind Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson Jr.
-- For the second straight year, the Redskins drafted an Alabama defensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft to bulk up their front seven. Before Daron Payne injured his ankle, he took on the nose tackle position and was flanked by Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis. That holds true on the depth chart, which puts Anthony Lanier II, Tim Settle and Ziggy Hood together as the second unit behind them.
-- Zach Vigil showed out at the end of the 2017 season and he’s continued to improve throughout training camp. He sits beneath Brown, alongside Martrell Spaight, while Josh Harvey-Clemons, who has looked good during nickel and dime packages, sits behind Vigil. Outside linebacker is more straightforward, as Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith lead the Will and Sam positions, respectively, followed Pernell McPhee and Ryan Anderson, then Alex McCalister and Pete Robertson.
-- The biggest question at cornerback is who will fulfill the outside position opposite Josh Norman. Quinton Dunbar earns that title for now, and has played the part in camp, ocassionally swapping in with Orlando Scandrick and Fabian Moreau. Both of those corners will likely see time in the slot, so it’s likely to see combinations of all three of them on the field during passing downs.
-- Once again, there is no competition in camp for kicker Dustin Hopkins, punter Tress Way or longsnapper Nick Sundberg. With the preseason opening Thursday, it could be worth watching how well Greg Stroman and Maurice Harris acquit themselves during kickoff returns as well as how Jamison Crowder and Trey Quinn start their years fielding punts.