Posted Mon Aug 25th by E. Halsey Miles
The worst week of the season is upon us, at least for those of us who follow training camp and get to know most of the players a little bit. That time when we must reduce our team down to the 53 members who will go thorugh the regular season. There are 77 players currently on the squad, and we must get rid of 24. As usual, there are closer to 60 that we want to keep than 53, and that last 7 is going to be painful, no matter what. They include some hard choices. Plus, there are historically surprises during these camps. Do you remember Patrick Hape? How about Kyle Johnson? Both players who showed no indication of being on the bubble either in their play or on the posted depth charts, yet both of these players surprisingly bit the dust at the last minute. Who’s going to be the big surprise this year? There are a couple of candidates!
Some of these choices are made for contract reasons, or for special teams performance, which means that many of them are very difficult for us fans, watching the game, to decipher.
That said, I’ve been studying the roster and, now that we’re down to 76 (one more must be cut tomorrow), I’m trying to divine who the remaining 23 players to go will be.
I figure we’ll keep 3 special teams players — one punter, not sure who but the other one is clearly going, Prater and Leach. You just don’t let go of a long snapper once you have one you like. You just don’t. That means offense and defense divide 50 players amongst them. Probably 25 on each squad, right?
Punters, 2 players:
I don’t have any idea who’s winning this one. I have a feeling Kern is just slightly ahead but they both look pretty darned equivalent to me. I could throw a die and be about as likely to be right as guessing. So I’m going to say Paulescu goes.
1 down, 23 to go!
Wide Receiver, 9 players:
- D. Jackson
We’ve already cut Lorne Sam and Samie Parker, but that number has to get down to 6. Maybe even 5. McDaniel and Jacobs are easy. We paid a bunch of money to Colbert, but he hasn’t shown us anything in preseason. I cannot imagine we actually keep him at this point. That drops us to 6, and with Marshall out for 1-3 weeks we probably will go with 6 until Marshall is assuredly back. Then we may well part with either Russell or Martinez and bring back someone else.
So that’s 3 more. 20 to go.
Tight end, 5 players
- N. Jackson
Historically we’ve kept 4 tight ends (5 if you count Leach, but the team isn’t currently listing him on the depth chart there. He doesn’t really line up at tight end except in emergency situations). Mustard has been a bubble player for years now. He’s currently listed behind Brett Pierce, who has made some plays, but what’s really going to matter here is special teams play. Tight ends make good special teams players — they have good size, good speed and good hands. Also, if Scheffler is really flying behind Jackson, it’s possible we cut him here as well. Nobody wants that, but this is the week of difficult decisions. I don’t think we’ll do it, though. I think Mustard’s special teams play plus his good blocking skills will give him the job, and Pierce will go. We will, once again, carry 4 tight ends.
O-line, 13 players
- PJ Alexander
Last year we kept only 8 men on the offensive line, and stacked the practice squad so that we could promote someone between games. If we continue with that policy, that means cutting 5 of these guys. Well, PJ Alexander is easy, and I think Erickson is too. We can safely stuff Lichtensteiger on the practice squad. Luckily, Wiegmann has publicly said he’s comfortable being a backup, and with Nalen’s knee we can’t cut Wiegmann. We could cut Nalen here, but I think Shanahan has a lot of respect for him here and will only cut Nalen if Nalen thinks he can’t play. That means we’ve got to find 2 more. It’s probably Polumbus and Gandy, and Polumbus goes to the practice squad. He’s got some potential.
That’s 10 cut, 14 to go, and 18 of our offensive squad chosen. That only leaves us 7 for QB and tailback! Oh boy.
Quarterback, 3 players
In my dreams, Ramsey gets cut for his poor preseason play. But to be honest, Hackney didn’t show anything better, really. He’ll get another game, of course, but Hackney should still have practice squad eligibility. That means Hackney gets cut, goes to the practice squad, so we can keep him in reserve.
We really need that extra body to keep Torain on the roster.
Tailback, 7 players
We have to cut 2 of these guys, unless we’re going to steal a body from the defense. Or if we go with only 3 tight ends — which would mean a lot fewer 2 tight end sets. We have to keep 2 guys who can play fullback, and I think Cecil Sapp is the odd man out here. The question is, who is the last cut here? This is really, really tough. Do we cut Alridge and hope he makes it to the practice squad (not likely) or do we put Torain on IR so we don’t have to worry about it? Or do we go back and cut Mustard? I have a feeling that the answer is that we cut Alridge, hope he makes it to the practice squad. Sorry, Alridge, but even hurt, Torain is getting your roster spot.
13 down, 11 to go, 25 players on offense.
Safety, 6 players
Barrett goes to the practice squad. He’s shown some flashes in preseason but I think we give the rookie a season to mellow on the practice squad and let him try for a backup position next year. We have to keep 4, and I admit I don’t have a really good feel for how the safety matchup is doing in the lower ranks but something tells me it’s Rogers. Sorry guys. I wish I had more to say here, I feel like I’ve been missing a really subtle competition.
2 more, that’s 14. 9 left.
Cornerback, 7 players
- C. Bailey
- J. Williams
This is the place where, I think we could have the biggest surprise. Foxworth and Paymah are both in their contract years. Foxworth has been auditioning for a starting role. Is it here? Is it somewhere else? The smart money’s been on somewhere else, but maybe it’s here. Bly’s tackling ability is suspect. Some think he’s getting old. Certainly the fans are down on him, but I haven’t heard any rumors that the team itself is down on him. And the biggest reason I’m reticent to believe that Bly will be the big Training Camp Surprise is that I’m not sure it’s wise to cut Bly while we’ve got 2 other corners in contract years, both of which think they can start somewhere else and are holding out for free agency. Unless we promote Foxworth and give him the big contract, I think we have to keep Bly, let Foxworth play nickel, and see what happens. Poole and Dada are, as I predicted when they got signed, roster casualties. Williams goes to the practice squad because we need roster space for our line.
3 more down 18 cut, 8 players selected for the defensive squad. Only have to cut 6 more players. Oh thank goodness.
Linebackers, 10 players
- DJ Williams
- B. Bailey
It seems Webster gets the starting nod, so K2 gets to be an expensive backup. But we can’t afford to cut him. We may get to keep 7 linebackers here, but I suspect it’s really just 6. Padilla is the international player and he actually has to be cut, so that one’s easy, but it gets pretty hard pretty fast after that. I really want to keep Woodyard, but here’s the problem with that: He plays on the weakside behind Winborn, and Winborn is a known special teams guy. Winborn’s roster spot is pretty safe, I think. Though Winborn did play in Bailey’s place, so maybe he moves over to the strongside and Woodyard backs up DJ, and K2 backs up Webster (or vice versa. Doesn’t matter for this exercise). Now, here’s where things get even tougher. Beck and Green are both known special teamers. Larsen, however, goes to the practice squad. And I think Green gets cut. Beck gets to keep his job because of his special teams play. We need that.
That’s 15 players on our squad, leaving 10 that we can put on the defensive line.
Defensive line, 13 players
There’s been a lot of talk of Ekuban and McKinley being on the bubble. But I see an easy cut here. Harris and Birdine. Then it’s a tossup between Clemons and Carrington. Both have been performing well at camp. I’m going to give Clemons the nod and say Carrington goes, but I’m not real confident.
And holy cow. That’s a full squad, 24 players cut. Let’s recap.
- Polumbus — squad
- Lichtensteiger — squad
- PJ Alexander
- Erickson — squad?
- Hackney — squad
- Alridge — squad
- Barrett — squad
- J. Williams — squad
- Larsen — squad
- Padilla — squad
Note also that Carlton Powell is currently on the PUP list, and will probably go onto IR.
So, friends. Where am I wrong? I can see a couple of weak spots in this list. Maybe we off balance the teams. Steal Nic Clemons from the defense so we can keep Alridge. I’d be good with that, but that puts extra strain on the defense, which is already the weaker unit. I can also see where we might cut one more lineman and keep either Jack Williams or Louis Green. So many different possibilities on defense!
Sounds off in the comments!