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Behind Enemy Lines

Six...Maybe

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Eighty guys started this process.

80.

When the dust settles only 53 will be left on the active roster. That is a one-third attrition rate, for those of you keeping score at home.

Thats a lot of dross to pour off the top.

One out of three will go home. Maybe it is just me but that sounds big. Real big. Perhaps I am prejudiced because I have some idea in human terms what it is like to lose a third of your coworkers in a month. The tech startup I worked for 2000 was purchased by the industry leader in our market and within a month fully one third of our little family had their walking papers.

In any other business letting one in three employees go in a month is horrendous. In fact, the government just spent record amounts of money to stem the tide of such events in this country. Yet 32 companies in the NFL do it every year at this time and we fans revel in it.

Sure, there are some disappointing cuts that leave some fans distraught or shaking their heads and just waiting to say I told you so later when that player makes it big for a rival. Sometimes there are surprise veteran cuts too but I think we got to those already this year when the team cut Jansen and Thrash in the spring.

So, 80 guys and 53 jobs. But how many of those jobs are really open anyway?

Precious few, at least I think that is the case in Washington if my tea leaves are even close to correct.

Your typical NFL roster is split pretty evenly with most teams keeping 25 guys on offense, 25 on defense and 3 specialty players. On offense you are usually looking at 3 quarterbacks, 4 running backs, 5 wide receivers, 3 tight ends and 10 linemen. On defense the breakdown can vary a bit more depending on whether the team runs a 4-3 or a 3-4 but in Washington we are likely looking at 9 linemen, 7 linebackers and 9 defensive backs. These numbers arent precise of course and can vary a touch here or there but usually not by much.

With that in mind, I think we can project who fills most of those spots with some level of certainty.

Baring a major injury the quarterbacks are chiseled in stone. Campbell is the starter and he will be backed up by Collins and Brennan.

Running back too is pretty well set with Portis the starting tailback, Sellers the starting fullback with Betts and Cartwright filling the 2nd and 3rd spots respectively behind Portis. Rock might be vulnerable but only if someone really wows Danny Smith with kickoff returns and as part of the coverage units.

Wide receiver is also largely nailed down with Moss, ARE, Kelly and Thomas filling the first four positions. That leaves one spot up for grabs at the moment.

On offensive line we know the starting five will be Samuels, Dockery, Rabach, Thomas and Heyer. It is a pretty safe bet that Rinehart, Williams and Clark will stick around too. That leaves 2 jobs open.

Now for the defense

On the line the team will keep tackles Haynesworth, Griffin, Golston and Montgomery. The ends will be Carter, Phillips, Orakpo and Jarmon. Right now I am thinking Alexander makes it in some sort of swing roll similar to what we saw Evans play last year. Might be an extra guy kept here depending on how they count Orakpo.

The starting linebackers are set too. Fletcher will run the middle and McIntosh the weak side like last year. Orakpo will be the starting SAM but we have already counted him so I am going to count Chris Wilson in this spot for the sake of numbers and because I think he makes it based on versatility. Blades will also be kept because he can play all 3 positions. That is four and so leaves 3 jobs open.

The defensive backfield might be locked up too with the starters being Rogers and Hall at the corners and Landry and Horton at the safeties. Smoot is the nickel corner at the moment with the team likely to keep Tryon and Barnes (because they are draft picks and those always earn a spot). The other two positions should go to Moore and Doughty as the backup safeties.

The only punter in camp is Smith. Likewise Albright is the only long snapper so those two are in by default. While there are two kickers, I would be surprised if Suisham doesnt get the job based on the old adage about the devil you know.

So what we are talking about here are 6 jobs total, 3 on each side of the ball, and frankly I think that just might be high. There is every possibility that the last two offensive line jobs already belong to Bridges and Montgomery. It is equally possible that the fuzzy math surrounding both Orakpo and Wilson have 5 linebacker jobs filled leaving two open and an open slot with the defensive ends that I figure goes to Jackson.

Which means that now we are looking at somewhere between 3 and 6 open jobs on the 53 man roster.

The odds against making this team have just gone up from 1 in 3 to somewhere between 1 in 4.5 and 1 in 9. Worse, those odds are only good if you are a WR, OL or LB. No others need apply.

Lots can happen in the next three preseason games, of course. Injuries, seriously bad performances, seriously good performances, etc You just never know when the next James Thrash will return a kickoff for a touchdown in back to back games and earn himself a roster spot.

But with that in mind and with apologies to Dennis Green we say, after watching the first game, most of the guys not mentioned above are who we thought they were and are playing for a spot on the practice squad at best.

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As an addendum, if you put my feet to the fire and force me to name all 53 at this point I would go with Hagans at WR because he can back up the starting return men and then Glenn and Hansen at the open linebacker positions because the team is trying to get faster and this coaching staff seems to like keeping the current years draft picks if at all possible.

Updated 12-18-09 at 04:44 PM by Neophyte

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Comments

  1. Boone's Avatar
    What a great summary - cutdowns for dummies - love it

    Nicely done brother Neo!
  2. JM's Avatar
    Yes, and this dummy is thinking about printing it out and using it as a guide on Saturday night...LOL. My visiting sis from Pittsburgh (twin and natural football enthusiast while I was the nerdy book worm) will be duly impressed, I'm sure.

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