November 28, 2021

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Fit And Go Forward

Chase Young will be fine. But how will no preseason impact the rest of Washington’s roster?

Reports surfaced on Monday that the NFL had canceled the entire 2020 preseason due to coronavirus pandemic, a move that the NFL Players Association had been pushing for weeks.

While the league likely made the right decision as virus cases continue to rise nationwide, there are several players across the NFL that wish at least a few exhibition games were being played. In Washington, that’s almost certainly the case.

Here’s a look at how the elimination of the preseason impacts Washington’s roster as a whole…

Little change

For proven studs like Landon Collins, Ryan Kerrigan, and Terry McLaurin, the elimination of the preseason likely doesn’t change much. You can add the rest of the defensive line unit — Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, and Daron Payne — into this grouping as well. Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses are honorable mentions.

In recent years, teams across the NFL have reduced the amount of playing time their stars see in the preseason. Outside of typically the third exhibition game, starters usually don’t see more than a few drives. 

Another player who likely won’t be impacted a whole lot? No. 2 overall pick Chase Young.

Yes, the transition from college ball to the NFL is difficult, no matter if you’re considered a generational prospect or a fringe roster guy. But even without the preseason, Young should be able to step right in and produce for Washington. Let’s get to the facts:

Young has dominated at every level he’s played at. During his junior season, he was double-teamed on every snap, yet he still led the nation in sacks. In Washington, there’s plenty of talent on the defensive front besides Young that will prevent defenses from solely focusing on the rookie, which will help the 21-year-old’s transition to the NFL significantly.

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Position battles impacted

Yet, not everyone on Washington’s roster is fortunate enough to have the luxury of these players listed above. Players that are entering open competitions for starting roles would have certainly benefitted from the preseason.

Entering training camp, Washington does not have set starters at left tackle, left guard, tight end, the No. 2 wide receiver position, and the second cornerback spot. 

  • Left tackle was expected to be a competition between free agent signing Cornelius Lucas, third-year veteran Geron Christian and rookie Saahdiq Charles. Without the preseason, it’s hard to imagine Charles, who might be the most talented of the bunch, being Washington’s Week 1 starter protecting Dwayne Haskins’ blindside when he has zero NFL experience.
     
  • The left guard job was expected to come down to the two Wes’s: Wes Schweitzer and Wes Martin. The former arrived in free agency, while the latter was a fourth-round pick in 2019. Schweitzer is more established, but Martin played well in Scherff’s absence last season and could be a long-term solution at the position. With no game action, it’ll be difficult to determine the better Wes for the job.
     
  • The wideout spot opposite Terry McLaurin is completely open after Kelvin Harmon tore his ACL. The preseason would give fourth-round rookie Antonio Gandy-Golden the chance to emerge into that role, but heading from Liberty to the NFL is an even bigger jump than most. Will AGG end up being the guy, or will the team be forced to start the season with a veteran like Cody Latimer on the outside?
     
  • Tight end is Washington’s worst position group on the team, but one of the most intriguing names on the team plays this position in Thaddeus Moss. Will the undrafted free agent be able to impress Ron Rivera and co. enough in camp without any preseason games to make the roster? We’ll find out.
     
  • Kendall Fuller has the No. 1 cornerback spot locked down, which leaves Ronald Darby and Fabian Moreau, both under contract for just 2020, competing for the other starting spot. How will the coaching staff choose who gets the nod Week 1? Will those one-on-one wideout vs. cornerback camp sessions reallllly be the deciding factor?
     
  • Lastly, how the running back room shakes out in Washington will be tough to assess with no preseason. Adrian Peterson enters camp the lead back, but he won’t likely handle the pass-catching duties offensive coordinator Scott Turner loves. Will that belong to Derrius Guice, J.D. McKissic or Antonio Gibson? What role does Peyton Barber have? Will Bryce Love be healthy enough to play? There are so many questions with this group, and no preseason makes those answers even harder to come by.

On the bubble

For everyone fighting for roster spots 45-53, the elimination of the preseason is a major blow.

Players like Trey Quinn, Troy Apke, and Josh Harvey Clemons — who have been on the team the past couple of years but aren’t guaranteed roster spots in 2020 — would have benefitted from the preseason. Now, with a new head coach and overall regime, it’ll be much harder for that group of Washington players to stand out.

Additionally, over the past couple years, the Burgundy and Gold have had multiple players enter training camp as afterthoughts that used a strong preseason to earn a 53-man roster spot. Without the preseason, wideouts Steven Sims and Robert Davis don’t make Washington’s roster in 2019, Cam Sims in 2018, and so on. 

So, while the elimination of the preseason is the smart decision healthwise, the Burgundy and Gold’s roster will almost certainly look different than it would’ve had there been a full four-game exhibition slate.

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Chase Young will be fine. But how will no preseason impact the rest of Washington’s roster? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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