Redskins Opt To Keep Two Quarterbacks As Initial Roster Is Set At 53 Players
This story appeared on page B1 of Sunday’s Free Lance-Star
The Washington Redskins have had a two-quarterback race since the five-month lockout ended and the team broke for camp on July 29.
As it turns out, it looks as though it will be just the two quarterbacks, at least for the start of the season.
With John Beck and Rex Grossman battling to be the starter when the season opens a week from today against the New York Giants, the Redskins cut Kellen Clemens and Matt Gutierrez on Saturday, when teams had to set their 53-man rosters and their eight-man practice squads for the first week of the season.
Three veterans were also released: safety Chris Horton, who started 15 games over three seasons but ended the last two on injured reserve; nose tackle Anthony Bryant, entering his fifth season; and Artis Hicks, a sixth-year veteran who started 10 games last year.
The cuts made yesterday signify only an initial roster. Teams may continue to add and release players as soon as today, as those who did not make a roster will clear waivers and are eligible to sign with other teams.
Active rosters expanded to 46 this season–one up from 45, with the emergency quarterback designation dropped and an additional gameday roster slot granted. The Redskins, though, opted to use the extra position to keep a non-quarterback.
Clemens, who is entering his sixth year and spent the last five with the New York Jets, played in all four preseason games and went 18-for-33 for 407 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He threw a game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass to Donte Stallworth with 1:07 remaining in Thursday’s final preseason contest against Tampa Bay.
“This is my approach at this point–I’m six years into this, going into six years, and what I can control is right now, this week, last week, practice, meeting rooms, games, all that,” Clemens said after the game. “Coaches are going to make their decisions. The front office people are going to make their decisions. I have no say in it.”
The Redskins kept eight offensive linemen–Sean Locklear, Erik Cook and Willie Smith, an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina in addition to the five starters. Four tight ends made the team, including Mike Sellers, who has been with the Redskins since 2004 and worked as a hybrid tight/end fullback this season, meaning Keiland Williams was released. Williams, who moved to fullback this season, started three games last year at running back as a rookie.
But eight receivers were retained–an unusually high number, though coach Mike Shanahan implied last week that he may break the standard of five or six players at the position. Veterans Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Stallworth, as well as Terrence Austin and rookies Leonard Hankerson and Niles Paul, made the team. Brandon Banks was also kept as a return specialist.
“We have a lot of depth in the room, and a lot of the young guys have really showed up this year and done well, and they’ve made their cases as well,” Stallworth said Thursday.
Running backs Tim Hightower, Ryan Torain and rookie Roy Helu made the team, but Evan Royster, a sixth-round pick who left Thursday’s game with a concussion, did not.
On defense, Washington kept six defensive linemen, nine linebackers and 11 defensive backs, though two will miss time at the start of the season and do not count against the limit–cornerback Phillip Buchanon, suspended the first four games by the NFL, and safety Kareem Moore, who will miss six games after being placed on the physically unable-to-perform list. Linebacker Horatio Blades, in his fourth season, was released, though he expected the move as soon as the Redskins signed Keyaron Fox on Aug. 8. Fox started three preseason games in place of the injured London Fletcher.
Eight of the Redskins’ 12 draft picks made the team, not including defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who was placed on injured reserve last week with a torn ACL. Among those on the bubble who were kept were cornerback Brandyn Thompson and nose tackle Chris Neild, who played a significant number of downs against Tampa Bay and will replace Bryant.
“I think I’ve definitely matured over these past four games,” said Neild, a seventh-round pick out of West Virginia. “At first, I wasn’t as comfortable, so I altered some things. I altered my stance, how I read the play, and that definitely helped out. Like I said, I’m comfortable with this game, and it grew over the last four weeks.”
Among the others cut: offensive linemen Selvish Capers and Clint Oldenburg, tight end Tony Curtis, defensive linemen Doug Worthington and Jeff Stehle, linebackers Theddeus Gibson and Edgar Jones, and defensive backs Reggie Jones and Anderson Russell.
“It’s been a blast,” Oldenburg posted on his Twitter page. “While I never really contributed here, you guys made me feel like a real part of the team. Great fans here.”
Rookies who were released, such as Royster and Jones, will be eligible for the eight-man practice squad as soon as they clear waivers. Jones has already indicated via Twitter the Redskins have made him that offer and he is likely to accept.
Cornerback Davonte Shannon, wide receiver Isaac Anderson and running back Shaun Draughn, who joined Smith as the only undrafted free agents still on the roster, were all released.