Back in the old days, when the NFL played a 16-game schedule, the math was easier. I knew, without resorting to a calculator, that after two games 12.5% of the season was in the books. But now, with 17 games, I’m all asea.
Apparently, the Washington Football Team has completed about 11.7% of their season as of now. As we could have expected, the results have been a mixed bag. Starting quarterback down. Inspirational win over a division rival. In a three-way tie for the NFC East lead.
That’s a capsule overview of the season so far. With a long week following the Thursday night game, we have some time to consider something beyond the last game and the next game, and so today, let’s take a peek at where the Football Team practice squad stands early in the season.
Ah, the practice squad. The rules have changed over the years – we once referred to this as the “taxi squad” – and COVID seriously altered the scope of this section of the roster. Washington currently has 16 players signed to its practice squad, which is the maximum allowed.
They represent a cross section of positions and ages. The youngest are 23, the oldest, 28. There is one rookie from the 2021 draft class. Seven of the players played in at least one regular season game in 2020, and four of them were on the field for more than 100 snaps last season.
Two were signed only last week, which is an indication that Washington, like most teams, is constantly tinkering, looking for any diamond in the rough who might be a good long-term developmental player, or might be a serviceable emergency fill-in this year.
Here’s a quick look at the current make-up of the Washington Football Team practice squad.
Nine of Washington’s practice squad players line up on the offensive side of the ball. There are four offensive linemen.
Keith Ismael (Center): Ismael was a promising sixth-round draft pick in 2019. He was a guard in college who showed good lateral movement, something the new offensive regime seems to value. Ismael was moved to center to back up Chase Roullier, and when both Roullier and guard Brandon Scherff were pending free agents, it seemed that Ismael might step right into Roullier’s shoes should he depart. But Roullier did not depart. He evolved into arguably the best lineman on the team and inked an extension last year. More importantly, Ismael never looked like the fluid athlete he seemed to be in college, and he was displaced by veteran Tyler Larson this season. Ismael is young enough to keep around, but he does not look like the long-term starter the team had hoped for.
Beau Benzschawel (Guard): Benzschawel looks like the exact type of player they value. He’s big and he’s mobile. He is not the road grader you might expect for a 6’6” interior lineman, but he moves well. Benzschawel did not look all that impressive in pre-season, but he has the benefit of being one of the new kids on the block, and should get another look or two either this season or next. Of all the offensive linemen on the practice squad, he is the one with the best chance of one day being a contributor at the NFL level.
Wes Martin (Guard): Martin looks the part of an NFL guard. He is powerful – 38 bench presses at his pro day in college – and played a lot of football in the BIG 10, where offensive linemen are forged in steel. He just never performed on the field when he got his chances. At this point, he is just a body who can provide deep depth. Maybe he will get the chance to turn things around with the expected departure of Scherff next year, but it seems like a longshot.
David Steinmetz (Tackle): Another big lineman from the Big 10, Steinmetz saw the field for four snaps in 2020. He is another athletic big man who looks the part on paper, but hasn’t shown very much on the field yet. Washington may see some turnover at tackle next season, with rookie Samuel Cosmi the only sure thing. Steinmetz will have a chance, but he will have to take a couple of big steps forward to be anything more than deep depth.
The Washington Football Team kept four tight ends on their 53-man roster, one more than they have kept in recent years. So it is not surprising that they do not have a tight end currently on the practice squad. Rookies John Bates and Sammis Reyes are both high-upside developmental players on the active roster, while vets Logan Thomas and Ricky Seals-Jones do the heavy lifting for now.
Washington has three wide receivers currently on the practice squad. Two were added just last week, which is a sign that, despite wholesale changes to the position this off-season, the team is still not totally satisfied with the production they are getting.
Antonio Gandy-Golden: The most high-profile member of the group, GG was a fourth-round pick in 2020. Injuries slowed his progress and he did not impress during his rookie season. He looked a lot better in the 2021 pre-season, and some had him projected to make the final 53. But Cam Sims is a more established and more versatile receiver, and it was likely the team was only going to carry one tall receiver with modest speed.
GG certainly has a future either in Washington or somewhere else, but I don’t think he will ever be the dynamic playmaker that demands a roster spot.