With the preseason done, here’s a Commanders 53-man roster projection

With preseason done, here's a Commanders 53-man roster projection originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Commanders will cut their roster down to 53 players on Tuesday. Here, Pete Hailey predicts who those 53 will be.

Quarterbacks (3)

Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke, Sam Howell

Notes: Three passers make the squad and the best-case scenario, obviously, is that only one plays meaningful snaps. Wentz’s supporting cast is well-rounded, and if he’s healthy and in control of the starting job all year long, Washington’s chances of qualifying for the postseason will be legitimate… Heinicke is a top-tier backup and should he be needed for whatever reason, he’ll give the club a jolt… Howell has shown enough this summer to suggest he could, at least, reach Heinicke’s level in the future, if not perhaps more. In 2022, however, he’ll be on the bench barring something extreme.

Running backs (3)

Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic

Notes: Robinson Jr. might’ve had the best camp of any Commander, considering that the top running back gig sure looks like it now belongs to him. He runs so well and so decisively… Robinson Jr.’s ascension has pushed Gibson down the depth chart. Ron Rivera touted him as the primary kick returner, but how much he’s involved on offense remains to be seen… McKissic will continue to produce whenever he gets his touches and will also continue to be slept on by the rest of the sport.

Wide receivers (6)

Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, Cam Sims, Dyami Brown, Dax Milne

Notes: With Wentz under center, hopefully, McLaurin can become one of the inarguable top wideouts in the NFL… Should Samuel be available for the majority of the team’s contests, he’ll be deployed in a plethora of ways… Dotson might not have the top-end talent of a Ja’Marr Chase, but 55 or so receptions for 600 or so yards as a rookie is absolutely doable… As the lone big-body option in this group, Sims has value… Brown’s summer has been underwhelming, but the 2021 third-round choice gets to stick around for another campaign… Milne provides depth and can serve as a punt returner in 2022.

Tight ends (4)

Logan Thomas, John Bates, Cole Turner, Armani Rogers

Notes: Thomas’ recent return from the PUP list was an awfully pleasant sight. Next up: Building chemistry with Wentz, as the two could potentially pair up for a handful of touchdowns in the red zone if they’re on the same page… Bates won’t wow as a pass catcher but he’s a menace as a blocker… A hamstring injury has sidelined Turner for some time now, but the fifth-round selection has the size and hands to contribute as a second tight end… Rogers has emerged, going from a total unknown to someone worth keeping. Like Thomas, he’s a former quarterback, and in Thomas’ absence (as well as others in this crew), he’s thrived.

Offensive line (9)

Charles Leno Jr., Sam Cosmi, Chase Roullier, Andrew Norwell, Trai Turner, Cornelius Lucas, Wes Schweitzer, Chris Paul, Saahdiq Charles

Notes: Leno Jr. and Cosmi are solid bookends, though Cosmi must suit up more than he did in 2021… Norwell’s camp included a handful of off-days, while Turner’s was almost totally erased by a quad injury. Those two, plus Schweitzer, will man the guard spots this season, with Schweitzer probably serving as the backup in an ideal world… Roullier is supremely dependable in the middle but is coming off of a scary leg injury… Lucas has been a gift as a swing tackle… Paul and Charles offer position flex, which makes retaining just nine blockers here a possibility. 

Defensive line (9)

Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Phidarian Mathis, Efe Obada, James Smith-Williams, Shaka Toney, Casey Toohill, Daniel Wise

Notes: It’s time for Sweat to use his rare physical tools to rack up double-digit sacks… Allen was a Pro Bowler in 2021; this front will rely on him to perform similarly… In a contract year, Payne will be desperate to wreak havoc and then reap a payday… Mathis’ run-stuffing background will come in handy, as the Commanders will not be scared to lean on five-man lines in the fall and winter… Obada, Smith-Williams and Toohill figure to be the guys who play in place of Chase Young until Young can do so himself… Toney is someone Rivera brings up from time to time thanks to his burst… Wise played six games for the franchise in 2021.

Linebackers (5)

Cole Holcomb, Jamin Davis, David Mayo, Khaleke Hudson, Milo Eifler

Notes: Holcomb is currently the best in what is slated to be the weakest position on the squad… If Davis can overtake Holcomb as the best, that’d be a tremendous development… Mayo will get work in predictable running situations… Hudson has utility as a special teamer… Eifler gets the nod for now, but it’s quite possible he’s rapidly replaced by a veteran cut by another organization.

Cornerbacks (6)

William Jackson III, Kendall Fuller, Benjamin St-Juste, Danny Johnson, Corn Elder, Christian Holmes

Notes: Jackson III ought to be far better in his second go-round with Washington. If that’s not the case, that’ll be hugely disappointing… Fuller’s intelligence is elite, even if some of his other traits aren’t… St-Juste will be an intriguing experiment in the slot, considering his size. It feels like he could be the X-factor among the corners… Johnson got toasted on a double move in the preseason finale, but he was decent a year ago when pressed into duty… Elder, an ex-Panther, turned in a number of good camp practices… Holmes could just as easily be cut, but special teams coach Nate Kaczor appreciates his work as a gunner on punt coverage and Kaczor’s say matters for these back-of-roster decisions. That said, Holmes was victimized often in the last exhibition outing.

Safeties (5)

Bobby McCain, Kam Curl, Darrick Forrest, Percy Butler, Jeremy Reaves

Notes: McCain’s skills as a communicator will be vital, and remember, he had four picks in 2021, too… Curl is beloved by local fans. Next step: More national recognition… Forrest has been labeled a “high-impact” defender by Rivera; the dude can hit… Butler’s special teams ability is enticing and like Forrest, he’s not afraid to get physical… Reaves squeaks by as the fifth safety, but his cut-down day will be stressful.

Specialists (3)

Joey Slye, Tress Way, Camaron Cheeseman

Notes: Instead of pretending like this was a tough call, this space will be used as an opportunity to point you in the direction of this very entertaining interview with Washington’s kicker, punter and long snapper.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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