Washington Redskins: Jerome Murphy

Chase Minnifield signed off practice squad

November, 29, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Chase Minnifield looked like it was just another day at Redskins Park for him, concealing any sort of joy over the news. The Washington Redskins corner had been told earlier in the day that he would be signed off the practice squad. His reaction? Well, there wasn't much.

The Redskins had a roster spot to fill after placing Stephen Bowen on injured reserve and cutting cornerback Jerome Murphy earlier in the week. For Minnifield, it represents the latest step in a journey that went awry before the 2012 NFL Draft. Minnifield needed microfracture surgery several months before the draft, taking him from a potential third-round pick to going undrafted. He then tore his ACL nearly two months after the draft and spent 2012 on injured reserve.

"I just needed to get football speed underneath my belt and practice every day," Minnifield said. "It's been a good situation for me."

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Minnifield earned the promotion based on his approach.

"The way he practices, the way he handles himself," Shanahan said. "He can play corner or he can play inside in a nickel situation. We just like the way he's developed. We'll see how it goes; hopefully we stay healthy."

Minnifield impressed the coaches with his toughness this summer, and showed the ability to play press man coverage. But he was not as strong in off man or zone coverage, and he had to learn to play special teams.

"I'm still learning," Minnifield said. "My whole life I've been a returner or kicker or punter. I'm still learning the blocking and reading and things like that. I'll get better at it if I see it full speed. Still a work in progress. [But] as a practice squad [player], you have to play all the special teams and give everybody a look. I've been doing that the whole season."

Redskins injury report: Healthy roster

October, 18, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins cornerback David Amerson said he's feeling fine and will play against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, barring any setbacks. That's good news for a secondary that has another tough assignment this week. Amerson is listed as questionable on the injury report.
With the Bears' diverse passing game, the Redskins need a healthy secondary to continue its recent solid play. Washington benefitted against Dallas from its ability to disguise coverages, partly because it used corner Josh Wilson in a variety of roles, from slot corner to strong safety. If Amerson had to miss, then the Redskins wouldn't be able to tap into their strength in the backfield right now, which is versatility.

Tight end Fred Davis (ankle), linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle), center Will Montgomery (knee), corner Jerome Murphy (ankle), nose tackle Chris Neild (calf) and tight end Logan Paulsen (knee) are probable.

For Chicago, tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) and corner Charles Tillman (knee) are questionable. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) is probable and his return would be welcomed by a struggling defensive front. Others listed as probable: linebacker James Anderson (back), safety Anthony Walters (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (knee).

Mike Shanahan defends Keith Burns

October, 14, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan defended his first-year special teams coach, Keith Burns, whose group has played poorly much of the year -- and average at best.

The Redskins allowed an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and then let up a 90-yard kickoff return that led to another touchdown.

“Keith Burns is a very excellent football coach,” Shanahan said. “Very capable. To get at this level and be in charge of something, it takes a lot of years of work to be put in those positions and I feel confident he’ll get the job done, even though we started out a little bit rough.”

Shanahan put it more on the players. It’s a unit that lost one of its longtime leaders in the offseason when Lorenzo Alexander signed with Arizona via free agency.

“Lorenzo Alexander’s not going to show up, so someone has to take control of the special teams,” Shanahan said. “One guy has to define himself. It’s us working as a group and it just takes one guy to look average.”

Average would be an improvement right now. The Redskins rank 28th covering kickoffs and 30th covering punts. They’re 30th in kick return average and 27th in punt return average. They’re struggling to create holes in the return game. And they’re still looking for a take-charge leader; Reed Doughty was named captain earlier in the year, though the Redskins don’t officially name their special teams captain until the midway point.

“When you’re voted captain you want to separate yourself from the rest of the pack,” Shanahan said. “That’s why we vote for our captain at the midway point, to see who separates himself on special teams. We’re still looking for that guy. We got a lot of guys in different positions, some new players. They’re getting used to different techniques.”

Shanahan also re-iterated that the officials missed the call on a punt with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left in the second quarter. Washington’s Jerome Murphy blocked B.W. Webb into the ball, which the Redskins recovered. But the officials ruled Webb was not an active player and therefore it wasn’t a fumble.

However, former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira told WJFK’s Grant Paulsen that he would have made the opposite call, saying Webb was an active player because he was trying to block Murphy.

The special teams lost three players to injuries Sunday: long snapper Nick Sundberg (meniscus) and Bryan Kehl (ACL), both out for the season with knee injuries; and corner David Amerson, who was drilled on a blindside block and suffered a concussion. Replays showed it was a helmet-to-helmet hit, but that doesn’t guarantee it should have been a penalty.

“It was definitely helmet to helmet,” Shanahan said. “[But] David will learn in time he has to hit that hole harder. He can’t wait. He had an excellent opportunity to go in there and make the play. That’s just a guy who’s a little inexperienced. Next time he’s in that position he’ll make the tackle.”

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues following the Washington Redskins' 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

It’s tough to defend the clock management at the end of the first half. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan defended the way Washington handled the timeouts and play calls during that span. Shanahan knows more about coaching than I’ll ever know, but in this case, there is this: The Redskins had a chance to stop the clock at Dallas’ 17 with 37 seconds left. They would have had one timeout left. Conceivably, they could have run several more plays by stopping the clock at this point. They also would have been more limited to where they could throw with only one timeout, or whether they could run the ball. Still, they trailed 14-3 at the time and had a chance to gain momentum before the half. Instead, the Redskins ran three plays, including a quarterback keeper on third-and-10. They got their field goal; but they also lost a chance for more plays and perhaps more points.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Tim SharpRobert Griffin III finished the loss to the Cowboys with 19 completions for 246 yards and no TDs.
Robert Griffin III regressed during the game from a passing standpoint. He completed 9-of-21 passes for only 112 yards in the second half, looking off-target on too many throws. The interception in the end zone wasn’t just on him, as receiver Santana Moss slipped and fell after the ball had been thrown. Griffin was under duress often and it possibly affected his accuracy. Regardless, Griffin’s passer rating got worse with each quarter, starting with a 111.5 rating in the first and finishing with a 25.0 in the fourth. He ran well; it wasn’t nearly enough.

Washington’s defense played its best game of the season, bothering quarterback Tony Romo enough to hurt his accuracy. Corner DeAngelo Hall did a terrific job on receiver Dez Bryant and, after a bad first series, the defense did a better job tackling. For the third straight game, they also stopped the run. For the first time this season, they did not allow a play of more than 20 yards. After a horrific start, the defense can feel better about themselves entering the Chicago game.

Bad calls occur every game. But the Redskins lost a chance to gain early momentum when the officials ruled that B.W. Webb was a passive player when he was blocked into the ball on a Washington punt. That meant it was not a fumble. But former vice president of officiating Mike Pereira told WFJK-FM’s Grant Paulsen that he would have ruled it a fumble because Webb was an active blocker, extending his arms to block Washington’s Jerome Murphy. The Redskins would have had the ball at the Cowboys’ 24 trailing by a touchdown. They did force a punt and drove for a field goal. But they lost a chance at more points.

Cowboys 31, Redskins 16: Ten Observations

October, 14, 2013
DALLAS -- Thoughts and observations from the Washington Redskins' 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:
  1. It's shocking that the Redskins lost by 15 points on a night when the defense: held Dallas to 213 yards; held receiver Dez Bryant to 36 yards receiving; held Tony Romo to a 72.9 passer rating. The defense deserves credit. But when you're playing poorly, losses like this happen. Or when you're a bad team. After five games there's no reason to think the Redskins are anything but a bad team. They play like bad teams do, with all the mistakes being made at the wrong times. Anything can still happen, but at least last season they could point to a handful of early games that showed what they could do. What game can they point to this season as proof that they are on the verge of ... anything?
  2. The offense managed 433 total yards and converted 8-of-16 third downs. But they couldn't convert in the red zone and they turned the ball over twice (once when Robert Griffin III was hit and fumbled; he threw an interception in part because the receiver, Santana Moss, slipped after the ball was released. Just a fact. Griffin had other areas you can knock.). It wasn't good enough.
  3. I don't know if Keith Burns is a good special teams coach or not. The Redskins had a guy in Danny Smith who was, like it or not, considered one of the best in the NFL. Yet they made mistakes under Smith, too. So is it now all Burns' fault? The problem for Burns is that, unlike Smith, he did not have a reputation to soften the blow of bad games. He needs to prove himself as a coach. Fair or not, he hasn't done it so far. Sunday, he lost Logan Paulsen on all his special teams units (Fred Davis had to play some; Josh Morgan was in kick coverage in addition to returning kicks and punts). Burns lost Bryan Kehl to an injury. He lost his long snapper. It didn't help.
  4. But there's just no defending special teams this year. They've been bad in all phases. But the Redskins have now surrendered two long returns, one for a touchdown; had a punt blocked and have done little in the return game. Who knew Richard Crawford's injury this summer would hurt so much in the return game?
  5. I always go back to the 2000 season when the Redskins won six of their first eight games with high-profile talent (the Deion Sanders year, in case you forgot). But they finished 8-8 and their coach, Norv Turner, was fired. When fullback Larry Centers was asked about the chemistry, he essentially said you find out about how strong it is when you get punched in the mouth. The Redskins have been drilled in the mouth. They seem to have a strong locker room. But how they respond will impact the next several years. It'll help define Mike Shanahan's tenure in Washington.
  6. I'm just as confused as the Redskins are on the non-fumble in which Jerome Murphy blocked a Dallas player into the ball. The officials said Murphy pushed him into the ball. “I thought you could do it,” Murphy said. “That's how we're coached up to do it. If you see someone close to the ball you want to line him up to the ball so you can hit him.” Said Shanahan, “You can block somebody into the football if they're engaged.” It was not a call that could be challenged. It would have given the Redskins the ball at the Dallas 24. So, yeah, it would have helped. But the Redskins had plenty of other chances. "So many things we can make an excuse for," Darrel Young said. "Controversial call. Move on from it.”
  7. Alas, more special teams. And I'll just let Young have the floor: “It's embarrassing for us as a blocking unit. It's not on the returner if he has 10 guys in his face. ... It just sucks man. ... If I have to give a grade on special teams it was an F today. I'm one of the core guys and I played terrible. We lost on special teams. ... This week in practice special teams has to be different. We do the little things right. I guess we're just not executing. Teams aren't outscheming us, they're just outplaying us.” So there you go.
  8. Griffin showed more of his old nimbleness and speed, running nine times for 77 yards. But he completed just 19 of 39 passes for 246 yards. If he throws more than 30 passes in a game, this offense is in trouble. It's just not their strength. But he also was under too much pressure and as the pressure increased his throws were more off-target. He needs to be better in the red zone, that's for sure. He is not helping them win games like he did last season. But I saw too many guys losing battles, on the line and at receiver, as well. Griffin needs more help than he did a year ago. I also think Griffin and the coaches will see he left yards out there in the pass game, whether because of overthrows or not seeing an open target.
  9. Dallas lost starting running back DeMarco Murray and their best defensive player in end DeMarcus Ware, both in the first half. It didn't matter. They found a way to win despite something going against them. The blocks we saw on those long returns? I haven't seen those out of the Redskins this year. No big lanes. Nothing. I did see a big lane for Alfred Morris on his touchdown run, yet another example of how his patience forces defenses to overflow to where he's running. Some other runs were missed because blocks couldn't be sustained, whether on linebacker Sean Lee or, in Reed's case, on the backside linebacker. The latter turned one potential solid run into a 3-yarder.
  10. The mistakes in this game, which were plentiful, came after two weeks to prepare.

Redskins injury report: Reed sits again

September, 26, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed did not practice for a second consecutive day, though coach Mike Shanahan remains hopeful that Reed might be able to play Sunday.

Kicker Kai Forbath (groin), linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle) and cornerback Jerome Murphy (death in the family) also did not practice. Tight end Fred Davis (ankle) was limited and said afterward that his right ankle was still sore.

If Davis and Reed can’t play, the Redskins would have to go with Logan Paulsen, already a starter, and No. 4 tight end Niles Paul. Paulsen is a solid blocker; Paul offers more speed, but he hasn’t really caught on as a pass-catcher from this position. Losing Reed and Davis would hurt in the passing game because they’re the Redskins' best receiving threats at tight end.

Reed’s size and athleticism help tremendously. The sprint rollout that Robert Griffin III threw to Paul in the corner of the end zone late in Sunday’s loss to Detroit would have had a better chance with the taller, more athletic Reed.

But Paulsen has reliable hands and proved he can be an occasional threat, too. Paul had a strong summer catching the ball, but has been squeezed for playing time because of the depth.

“It’s one position where we have more depth than most,” Shanahan said. “It’s always nice to have four guys that can play. Right now we have two guys that are healthy and two that are banged up. Both have a chance to play, but we won’t know until game day.”

Forbath won't kick until Friday or Saturday to see if his groin has improved.

For Oakland, quarterback Terrelle Pryor was limited in practice because of a concussion, according to the injury report. Safety Tyvon Branch (ankle), defensive end Jason Hunter (quad) and tackle Menelik Watson (knee) did not practice. Linebacker Sio Moore (concussion), guard Lucas Nix (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion) also were limited.

Redskins practice notes: Meriweather sits

September, 2, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- News and notes after Monday's practice:

• Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather, trying to return for the opener after ACL surgery on Dec. 15, now has another issue. Meriweather did not practice Monday because of a sore groin, though it's uncertain if this will keep him out of practice when they return Wednesday. If Meriweather cannot play in the opener versus Philadelphia, then veteran Reed Doughty would get the start. Doughty, entering his eight season, is a coach's favorite because of his preparation, understanding of the defense, and consistent tackling. A healthy Meriweather gives them more speed at the position, but he hasn't been healthy in a long time.

• The Redskins named their captains Monday, with two each on offense and defense. The offensive captains: quarterback Robert Griffin III and left tackle Trent Williams. The defensive captains: linebacker London Fletcher and nose tackle Barry Cofield. Also, they named Doughty as the special teams captain Monday. After eight games, they will add a third captain to both the offense and defense and will name a permanent special teams captain.

My take: These were good, obvious choices. I like that Cofield is on the list; he entered with the reputation as a leader but one who lets it happen over time. Cofield has established himself as a strong voice in the locker room and a stand-up guy. Doughty, too, deserves praise. He's become a leader as much by example -- he's in the eighth season of a career many thought might not last one. His approach makes him invaluable.

• There's still no word on who will return punts and kickoffs against the Eagles. Rookie Chris Thompson worked at both spots this summer and returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown in the preseason finale at Tampa Bay. But Thompson said he's not sure if he'll handle this job in the opener. Coach Mike Shanahan said his three potential choices for punt returner are Thompson, Santana Moss or Josh Morgan. The latter has returned one NFL punt, though he did that duty at Virginia Tech.

• Shanahan said the thinking behind keeping four quarterbacks was simple. Pat White was one of their top 53 players, therefore he deserved a spot. How long he lasts on the roster remains to be seen, but just reaching this point after a three-year layoff is good.

A bonus for this week: White can simulate Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in practice.

"He's going to give us a great look," Shanahan said. "He's amazing at what he can do with the zone read. He's been out for a while and for him to execute like he did, as quick as he did, tells me a lot about Pat."

• Shanahan on keeping corner Jerome Murphy and safety Jose Gumbs: "That was pretty easy. Murphy is one heck of a special teams player. When he has played corner, he's played it well. He's got speed, he's got size and he's been dominating on special teams. And Gumbs came in and competed. That's what we tell these players. We don't care if you're a first-round draft choice or a free agent, we're going to play the best players. And Gumbs came in and played well."

Predicting the Redskins' final 53

August, 30, 2013
This is like picking the NCAA basketball tournament. Most teams are very easy to pick -- going out on a limb and projecting Robert Griffin III on the roster, barring conflicting statements of course. And there are few things I dislike more than picking the final 53. Why? Chance to be wrong too many times. And yet, here I am on the eve of cut-down day sending out projections. Fortunately, I feel good about tight ends, linebackers and the defensive line. And, I think, quarterbacks. But I'm shaky on running back, receiver and the defensive backfield. More fluid parts there.

They’re in:
Griffin, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman
Out: Pat White

Note: White made strides, and under different circumstances I’d keep him around. Just to see how he develops. But with questions about Griffin’s durability, I’d be reluctant to have White as my third quarterback because of his inexperience. He improved with his accuracy, but still was inconsistent on certain throws. He’ll take time to develop. Would you keep White to groom him as the backup and then trade Cousins in the offseason? Sure. But what if something else happens to Griffin and you hang onto Cousins, just in case? When you listen to the coaches, they definitely like how White has progressed. Their enthusiasm for his progress is genuine. A few weeks ago I would not have written any explanation about why he would or would not stick around.

They’re in:
Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Keiland Williams, Chris Thompson, Darrel Young
Out: Evan Royster

Note: Royster is a better running back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to trade him. (Was told by one coach of another team there would be at least a limited market for him.) Before the Bucs game, I was convinced he was gone. Now? I think it's 51-49 he leaves. Or, perhaps 50.5-49.5. Williams is a better special-teams player than Royster. Both have solid hands, but Royster needs the ball a lot to be effective. So in a pinch he’s not as effective. Though he’s a good fit in a zone-read, the Redskins have a featured back (Morris), a third-down back (Helu), a speed back (Thompson) and a special-teamer do-it-all (Williams). It does not sound as if Williams' shoulder is that bad from Thursday; if it is, then this changes.

They’re in:
Fred Davis, Jordan Reed, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul
Out: Emmanuel Ogbuehi

Note: No surprises here. On draft day coach Mike Shanahan made it clear they could keep four tight ends. Paul looked a lot more comfortable this summer than last, thanks to an offseason of work after playing the position for the first time. Reed will help once he becomes more consistent. Ogbuehi impressed them, but there’s no room.

They’re in:
Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson
Out: Dez Briscoe, Skye Dawson, Nick Williams

Note: The first five were a lock before camp opened and remained that way throughout the summer. Briscoe could sneak in because of his size, but his hands are inconsistent – that was true last season and again this summer. He had a nice play the other night, but I didn’t like that he got caught from behind. With four tight ends, three of whom are solid receiving threats, and with Helu, the Redskins don’t need as many receivers as in the past. Keep in mind, too, that Shanahan has kept as few as four wideouts in the past (with Denver in 2005 and ’08, according to their opening day rosters). If they keep Dawson or Williams around on the practice squad they should be fine. Neither Dawson nor Williams did enough to warrant a spot. Dawson is quick and was tough to cover in one-on-one drills, but did little in 11-on-11 work. As a returner he was fine, but needed to be great.

They’re in:
Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Tom Compton, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus
Out: Tony Pashos

Note: The Redskins opt for youth at the backup spots, but while Pashos did show some good things – his hands, strength – I’m not sure he moved as well as needed in this offense. Again, another one I’m uneasy about because I don’t like the inexperience with the backups. Plus Compton’s development at left tackle should give them confidence that he could move to the right side if needed. The problem: Compton did not have a good final game, especially early. Gave up more than you’d like in protection and some issues in the run game, too. He was inconsistent in the opener, but played well in the second and third games. They also have Maurice Hurt, who likely will be on the PUP list. I’m uneasy with the backup guards, even though I do like how Gettis progressed.

They’re in:
Kedric Golston, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Chris Baker, Chris Neild, Phillip Merling
Out: Ron Brace

Note: Merling would have been bumped had Jarvis Jenkins not been suspended. So when Jenkins returns, Merling could be in trouble. But Merling was fine against the run. Golston has played well enough to open at left end; he does a better job than Baker of doing his job here, occupying blockers. Baker too often likes to get upfield and make plays; it can lead to big gaps in the defense.

They’re in:
Ryan Kerrigan, Perry Riley, London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, Darryl Tapp, Bryan Kehl, Nick Barnett, Brandon Jenkins
Out: Will Compton, Marvin Burdette

Note: This is tough for me because I like how Compton has played. He’s a smart, decisive player who was able to defeat blockers in part because he often beat them to the spot. I’d definitely want him on the practice squad. The other question is, what happens when Rob Jackson returns from suspension? Do they cut one of these players? I don’t know who you would cut; Tapp has been a terrific surprise (for me anyway) and Jenkins is safe. So they might end up with nine linebackers when Jackson returns.

They’re in:
DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, E.J. Biggers, David Amerson, Chase Minnifield, Jerome Murphy

Note: Murphy is a surprise choice; the coaches really like him and he’s a physical player and good on special teams.

They’re in:
Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, Bacarri Rambo, Jordan Pugh, DeJon Gomes.
Out: Jose Gumbs

Note: Gumbs to the practice squad. And, by the way, I’m not confident at all in this position. The Redskins, one league source said, had contacted teams about Gomes a couple weeks ago, seeing if there was any trade interest. Whether or not he’s still on the market – or if anyone would part with something for him -- I don’t know. And if they’re concerned about Meriweather’s durability, perhaps you keep Gomes because he can play in the box and back up Doughty. He’s also a good special-teams player. I'm not anticipating a Tanard Jackson return either. He can apply for reinstatement Saturday. That does not mean he'll be reinstated immediately -- if at all. Remember, it was an indefinite suspension.

They're in:
Sav Rocca, Kai Forbath, Nick Sundberg

Note: If you’re expecting great analysis here, stop reading. Nothing to say. They were in from Day One.

Redskins vs. Bucs: What to watch for

August, 29, 2013
With just about every starter out for Thursday's preseason finale at 7:30 p.m. ET at Tampa Bay, is there much reason to be interested in this game? The biggest part of the night will be an examination of Robert Griffin III's right knee. If they televised that, it might draw higher ratings than the game. But they are going to play and we're going to watch, and this is what needs to be monitored:

How Brandon Meriweather looks. The Redskins need Meriweather to look like he’s ready to play a game and, thus far, they have not been convinced that is the case in practice. Every game he played last season, whether it was in the preseason or the one game against Philadelphia during the regular season, Meriweather made plays. There were breakups, hits and turnovers. If he’s not around the ball a lot; if he’s not making plays; then Meriweather might still be affected by his December ACL surgery.

Many happy returns? The Redskins could use another game with many punts, just to give them a better idea on certain players, such as rookie Chris Thompson. Two weeks ago he looked bad fielding punts; last week he did not -- he was patient and knows how to set up blocks. But those two fumbles from scrimmage loom large, as does his inexperience. Josh Morgan might get a surprise shot here, coach Mike Shanahan said Tuesday. But Morgan was a good punt returner at Virginia Tech, though he’s returned just one in the NFL. Skye Dawson has returned punts throughout the preseason and has done well since two bad returns in the opener (fumble, bad decision). Hard to imagine he’s done enough to warrant a roster spot.

Pat White. He’ll start and play the whole game, capping a summer of terrific opportunities. Thanks to Robert Griffin III’s knee, White received more time than he ordinarily would have as a fourth quarterback. It enabled him to showcase more of what he could do. Could he earn a spot here? Only as a fourth quarterback, and that seems like a big stretch. The Redskins are convinced he’ll be on someone’s roster -- is that legit or an attempt to possibly drum up trade interest (slight long shot). White is not close to where the others on the Redskins are as a quarterback. He has improved, but all he’s shown thus far is an ability to run (already known) and that he can hit the slant/dig route. He needs to show he can go through a progression; that he can consistently hit the out routes. White has definitely improved since we first saw him in spring workouts (when he looked like someone who should not even be invited to camp). He deserves a lot of credit, and I could see another team wanting him as a developmental No. 3. With two young quarterbacks already, the Redskins don’t need such a player, unless they already anticipate trading Kirk Cousins in the offseason (though how could you know that already; what if something happens to Griffin once again?) and want to groom another backup.

Secondary issues. At least those not named Meriweather. Josh Wilson will play, one of the few projected starters who will appear in the game (tight end Fred Davis was not yet scheduled to have the night off as of Tuesday; that's surprising, so we'll see if he actually plays or not). Wilson is coming off shoulder surgery and needs the work. Is there any way he loses his starting job? I can’t go there yet, because rookie David Amerson is still clearly learning lessons. But I can’t imagine Wilson has a stronghold on the position either. Why should he? Two guys to watch are cornerback Jerome Murphy and safety Jose Gumbs. Murphy has been a special teams standout, and fared well in limited time from scrimmage; he had a good camp, too. Gumbs is a hitter learning to play free safety. This is, perhaps, the most jumbled of all the positions because they also have Jordan Pugh and DeJon Gomes. Tough to see both making the roster, but it really could depend on the Bucs game.

Who has the big finale? There are players who can change their fate with a big showing in the final preseason game. A year ago Brandon Banks had 156 total yards against Tampa Bay -- 90 from scrimmage; 66 on punt returns -- to clinch a roster spot. Maybe he already had earned one, but this made it definite. Linebacker Robert Henson had a terrific final game in 2009 to jump ahead of fellow rookie linebacker Cody Glenn and earn a spot. A year later Henson lost his opportunity when he blew out his knee in the preseason finale. Who will have that sort of game Thursday night?

Running back battle. My best guess is that the Redskins keep four running backs, in addition to fullback Darrel Young. In that scenario Thompson makes it with Keiland Williams and Evan Royster vying for the final spot. Right now, I’d give Williams the edge. Rookie Jawan Jamison hasn’t done a whole lot this summer and appears to be a good candidate for the practice squad. And if they somehow lost him, oh well.

Receiver questions. Do they keep a sixth receiver? If so, would someone else other than Dez Briscoe be in that battle? Hard to imagine based on what we’ve seen in games and practice. Lance Lewis has a long way to go to be ready to make an NFL roster, and Dawson and Nick Williams both are more suited to the practice squad. What if Leonard Hankerson has a big game? Could he unseat Morgan as the Z receiver? I’d like to see a lot more consistency from Hankerson to make that happen. Morgan makes the tough catches that Hankerson has yet to prove he can make (not the one-handers, but the grabs over the middle when you’re about to be drilled).
Quarterback Pat White remains a long shot to make the Redskins roster. He could, however, get a chance to make someone else’s with another strong preseason showing. White will play the entire preseason finale at Tampa Bay.

The Redskins don’t have a need to develop another young quarterback, with their top two both in their second year. They like what Rex Grossman brings, both on the field and in the meeting room, as a No. 3 quarterback. The Redskins have done a good job calling plays for White, who is comfortable running the ball but inconsistent with his passing -- excellent on slants and digs but high on passes to the outside.

“Pat hasn’t been totally consistent in all his drops in the rhythm of the passing game,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “But he’s gotten better each week. He can still get a lot better.”

White is ineligible for the practice squad, but the Redskins are convinced he’ll be on some team’s roster this season.

“The more football he’s around, the more he works at it, the better he’ll get,” Shanahan said. “He’s as hard on himself as anyone I’ve been around. … It’s just a matter of time that he can be as good as he wants.”

In other Redskins news:
  • Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett on veteran linebacker Nick Barnett: “He’s got great football instincts. He knows where to go, he flies around. He [doesn’t] know what he’s doing yet but he knows where the ball is. He just needs reps on the field and once he gets those he’s going to be fine. He’s a good player.”
  • Haslett still likes his depth at corner even after the loss of Richard Crawford, out for the season after tearing his ACL, LCL and MCL in his left knee. Crawford would have been, at best, their fifth or sixth corner. “I feel good about Chase [Minnifield], I feel good about Jerome [Murphy],” Haslett said. “We’ve got enough guys that we’ll be fine.” Murphy has quietly had a good summer, particularly on special teams.
  • Another name added to the list of possible punt returners: Josh Morgan. Coach Mike Shanahan said they might have him return a punt or two against Tampa Bay. However, Morgan has never returned a punt in the NFL (he has run back 15 kickoffs, including 13 in 2009 with San Francisco – and averaged 28.2 yards). But he did return punts at Virginia Tech.
  • The Redskins reached the 75-man roster limit by waiving linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and corner Ryan Mouton with injured designations and waived Jacolby Ashworth with an injury settlement. They also terminated the contract of tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
  • The Redskins also moved defensive end Adam Carriker from the active/physically unable to perform list to the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Carriker does not count against their 75-man roster, but this still leaves open the possibility that he could return later in the season. Maurice Hurt, who is on the active/physically unable to perform list, does count against the 75.