The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.
2016 final game starters: Preston Smith, Ryan Kerrigan
Smith and Kerrigan both started all 16 games. Kerrigan has now started all 96 games since he was drafted in 2011.
Projected 2017 starters: Smith, Kerrigan
Kerrigan’s presence is a given. He has four years left on the five-years extension he signed in 2015. Kerrigan made his second Pro Bowl last year with 11 sacks, the second-best total of his career.
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Smith was a model of inconsistency. He was dominant against the Vikings, recording two sacks and getting his first career interception to stop a key Minnesota drive, and against the Bears he blocked a field goal attempt and got a sack. During other games, you rarely heard his name called. He had zero or one tackles in nine games.
2017 reserves: Trent Murphy, Junior Galette, Houston Bates, Lynden Trail
Murphy played about 100 fewer snaps than Smith last year but he had more sacks, QB hits, and hurries. He is likely to miss the first four games of the season due to a PED suspension but an appeal is still pending.
Galette is the wild card in the bunch. He could get double-digit sacks, like he did with the Saints in 2013 and 2014, or he could miss the whole season, like he did the last two years.
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Trail is huge, 6-7, 270, but still very green. He could benefit from another season on the practice squad although another team could be tempted to sign him away. Bates played just 24 snaps on defense but he was valuable on special teams and he lined up at fullback on occasion as well.
Where can the outside LB’s find improvement?
The Redskins have five picks in the first four rounds and there is a good chance they go with an edge player with one of those picks. The draft has some depth at the position and they could get some immediate production out of someone taken in the third or fourth rounds.
Smith has the highest potential for improvement from within. Even though Greg Manusky have moved up from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator he certainly will continue to push Smith as he enters his important third season. And he will no doubt get some tips from respected defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as Smith often will line up in a four-point stance.
As noted, Galette could be a Pro Bowl candidate or he could be totally unproductive. The Redskins probably would be happy with something in between, a half dozen sacks or so.
Locks and bubble players
Kerrigan, Smith, and Galette are locks for the initial 53-man roster. Assuming Murphy’s suspension appeal fails he won’t be on the roster until Week 5.
That would give Trail, Bates, and possibly a draft pick an opening. The Redskins usually keep four but they could go with five if they get someone in the draft.