Roster Blueprint: Saahdiq Charles' versatility could pave way for Jaret Patterson


Traditional NFL roster construction calls for 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players and three specialists for punts and kicks.

Occasionally a team will break camp with a 26/24 split, but in general, the split is even.

The normal breakdown for offensive players starts with 10 offensive linemen, then six wide receivers and three players each at quarterback, running back and tight end.

For the Washington Football Team, however, that structure presents a problem when it comes to undrafted rookie running back Jaret Patterson.

Washington is certainly keeping Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic on their roster. 100 percent. And for all the fan consternation about Peyton Barber and his 2.7 yards-per-carry average in 2020, the coaching staff absolutely values his short-yardage and goal line ability. 

When Washington needs two yards, Barber gets them three, and that skill has real value to this staff. 

Barring injury or something unforeseen, that means Washington will need to keep four running backs to keep Patterson on the final roster. 

The undrafted rookie out of Buffalo has forced himself into the conversation with more than 200 all-purpose yards and a touchdown through two preseason games. Patterson also appears to have special teams value beyond what he brings as a runner and pass-catcher.

Patterson deserves a roster spot. That's easy to see. 

The harder part is figuring out how the math works.

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At quarterback, Washington will definitely keep three: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen. There's no room here.

While the tight end depth chart might not be clear, Washington will keep three players at the position. Logan Thomas is a lock and rookie John Bates appears a certainty. Sammis Reyes would probably be in line for the third spot but he's currently in concussion protocol. 

A consensus seems to be building for the six wide receivers on the roster: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown, Cam Sims and Antonio Gandy-Golden. Frankly, no other player has done enough to push for a seventh WR spot. 

That leaves the offensive line as the most likely way to create a roster spot for Patterson, and the versatility of second-year pro Saahdiq Charles might be the key.

Washington's best nine linemen seem fairly obvious at this point: Charles Leno, Ereck Flowers, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff and Sam Cosmi comprise the starting group. Behind them are Charles, Cornelius Lucas, Wes Schweitzer and Tyler Larsen. 

That's nine players, but what makes Charles unique is he's worked in both at guard and at tackle. While the long-term vision could be to make Charles a tackle, this fall he could serve as a backup to either spot. 

Considering the increased size of practice squads, and the rule changes that allow veterans to be stashed on practice squads, Washington could stock up that group with linemen they might need in a pinch. If one of the starters suffers an injury and needs to go on injured reserve, the team can pull up a veteran from its practice squad that is already familiar with the offensive system and playbook. 

One other factor to keep in mind - Washington doesn't normally keep a fullback in its offense. Teams that do usually only keep nine offensive linemen, essentially creating a fourth RB spot in the process. 

What has more value for Scott Turner's offense - keeping Patterson or keeping a 10th offensive linemen? What has move value for Nate Kazcor's special teams - keeping Patterson or keeping a 10th offensive linemen?

Those answers won't be too hard for Ron Rivera to figure out. 

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