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Three things that shouldn't surprise you on cutdown day

August 27, 2018 - 8:28 pm
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By Craig Hoffman

The Redskins have hard decisions to make before Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline, many of which aren't the traditional 'Player A vs. Player B' decisions we think of this time of year.

HILLIARD: How Sims Can Make The Roster

Yes, the sixth wide receiver is down to Brian Quick vs. Cam Sims, but it's also about whether they keep six receivers in the first place. The numbers game is going to have a major impact, and there are going to be some numbers that may surprise people. Here are three things that are more likely than you think to happen before Saturday's deadline:

1. Chris Thompson is the lone 3rd-down back on the opening day roster

The prevailing thought for the entire 2018 offseason was that Byron Marshall and Kapri Bibbs were competing for a roster spot to back up Thompson, while Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley were competing to back up Derrius Guice. Everything changed for Kelley and Perine when Guice went down in New England. The Redskins signing Adrian Peterson changed things again.

Adrian Peterson is 33 years old. He looked marvelous in his first game, but he has a lot of mileage on him and one has to wonder if he can hold up for an entire season. Perine has battled an ankle injury since his lone carry against the Jets, and Kelley has his own injury history. Could that lead to the Redskins keeping all three of them and trying to stash Bibbs or Marshall on the practice squad, since both have eligibility thanks to the new veteran rules? It'd be foolish to rule it out.

Personally, I would still take Bibbs/Marshall over a Kelley/Perine because they are more versatile and might even be better in between-the-tackles runners. Unlike Thompson, they're big enough to handle a heavy load if Peterson goes down, so why not also keep the versatility? The argument is that they can keep all of them with Marshall or Bibbs on the practice squad, so don't be surprised if that's the route they take. Ultimately this will be decided with the play of Bibbs, Perine and Kelley Thursday night in Baltimore. Best men win.

2. J.P. Holtz makes the roster

Who?! The guy blocking for Adrian Peterson on those runs, that's who. Holtz came in Aug. 11 after injuries to tight end Manasseh ​Garner and fullback Elijah Wellman. Gruden had spoken highly of Wellman, and Holtz quickly assumed the role of fullback after he got hurt, though Holtz is a tight end by trade. "JP did a nice job," Gruden said Monday after practice. "That’s something we're considering."

The Redskins could desperately use a blocking tight end, and one that can legitimately play fullback would be a huge bonus. Holtz has shown he's more than capable. Don't rule this out. In fact, I am projecting this to happen pending the fourth and final preseason game.

3. Troy Apke does not make the roster

Cutting a fourth-round pick isn't unprecedented, but it is rare. Apke has struggled mightily in the preseason. He has an interception, but it was a right place, right time kind of play more than it was showing some extraordinary skill. He's shown the ability to get in position to make tackles at times, but has also failed to do the job. If he's the last line of defense, the Redskins are in trouble.

Meanwhile, Kenny Ladler had a monster opening to camp and then has quietly done a good job on special teams in preseason games. The Redskins could also look outside the organization for a veteran to backup D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson. Obviously the Redskins would want to keep Apke on the practice squad, but that requires him clearing waivers.

The "good" news is he was a player who many thought the Redskins over-drafted, and he hasn't put a lot on tape to back up their decision. All of that makes him more likely to clear waivers and stay with the Redskins to develop. The other good news? The last time this happened with a mid-round pick was Matt Ioannidis. He's turned out alright. The hope is Apke can do the same.

There are other position battles to watch beyond those mentioned above. Lots of work. Little time. The deadline to get the roster to 53 is Saturday at 4 p.m.

Follow Redskins reporter @CraigHoffman