COMMENTARY | The Washington Redskins finalized their 53-man roster over the weekend, giving fans the first glimpse of the team that will start the season. Most people could have guessed the big names on the roster, but there were a few moves that raised some eyebrows.
Here's a look at the biggest surprises:
A few weeks ago, the question was whether or not the Redskins would keep just two with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. Instead, they kept all four. This is likely just a precaution with lingering "concerns" over Griffin's knee and with Cousins' sprained foot, so perhaps we should not read too much into this decision. But, with the Redskins, it's hard not to.
Are there concerns Griffin could aggravate the knee injury? Is Cousins' injury much more significant than the team is letting on? Probably not, but those are the questions many are asking because the team felt the need to include both Rex Grossman and Pat White.
I expected the team to keep Grossman -- the coaching staff truly believes in his ability to run the offense. Head coach Mike Shanahan even went so far as to publicly declare he wanted Grossman to return.
White is likely just an insurance policy. Once the season starts, when the Redskins inevitably find themselves in need of an extra roster spot, perhaps in Week 4 when Jarvis Jenkins and Rob Jackson return from suspension, White will be on the chopping block.
White's inclusion on the roster likely means nothing and, barring an injury to Griffin or Cousins, I doubt he will stick around for the entire season. Any time a team decides to keep an extra quarterback, however, you cannot help but speculate.
Minnifield not making the cut
With Richard Crawford's season-ending injury, it looked like the door was open for Chase Minnifield to sneak on the roster as the fifth cornerback. The coaches were very vocal in their praise of him throughout the preseason, making it appear he was indeed destined to don the burgundy and gold. Instead, the Redskins went with the more-experienced Jerome Murphy.
The Redskins signed Minnifield to the practice squad Sunday, so the coaches have not given up on him yet. He has already suffered two significant knee injuries, including one in high school and one that ended his bid to make the roster last season. There was probably some concern over whether he could stay healthy for an entire season, prompting this move by the coaches. If he does not suffer any setbacks after a year on the practice squad, I expect the team will give him a more serious look in 2014.
Royster over Williams
With a crowded backfield, someone had to get the ax.
Alfred Morris and Roy Helu were locks. Morris, of course, had a stellar rookie season last year and is poised again to carry the load for the Redskins. Helu missed the majority of last season with a toe injury, but he showed this preseason he is far and away the best choice to back up Morris.
Rookie Chris Thompson appeared to be in trouble until he established himself as a dangerous punt returner. He showed flashes of his potential against Buffalo and really made the most of his opportunity against Tampa Bay, returning a punt for 69 yards and a touchdown. He had only 76 yards on 22 carries in the preseason, showing he still has work to do. He is undersized and showed really no push at the line. I think he needs to develop more strength, but a year on the roster will help with his development.
The coaches clearly made up their minds quickly on their second rookie running back, Jawan Jamison. He had only 16 carries in the preseason, really not enough to get a fair shot at making the roster. It was not surprising to see him cut and signed to the practice squad.
Both had comparable preseason stats; Royster had 25 carries for 121 yards, and Williams had 19 carries for 101 yards. There are two things, however, that I thought would work against Royster. First, Williams contributes on special teams. Second, Royster failed to impress as the Redskins' No. 2 back last season.
When Helu went down with his injury last season, the Redskins really needed Royster to step up as Morris' backup. Instead, he had only 23 carries for 88 yards in 16 games last season. Compare that to his 2011 season where he had 56 carries for 328 yards in only six games. Clearly, last season was a step back.
Obviously, the Redskins were hoping for a little more from him last season. I don't think it really mattered what he did in the preseason against backups, because I thought last season, playing against opponents' first-team defense, was his actual audition. With an average of only 3.8 yards last season, I expected the Redskins would move on.
Instead, it is Williams and not Royster who is looking for another team. Royster is certainly better suited to be a No. 3 back than a No. 2, so perhaps he will enjoy a better season serving in that role. Still, I did not see enough from him last season to warrant a second shot in 2013.
Apparently, Shanahan did.
JJ Regan is currently earning his master's degree in journalism at American University and is a freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.
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