Bye week grades: Linebackers.
Through seven games, the Redskins rank as one of the NFL’s most inconsistent teams—from week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter, heck, play-to-play. But at 3-4, they’re still in the thick of things as they catch a breather at the bye. It’s been an interesting couple of months, indeed, and over the next few days CSN Mid-Atlantic reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will hand out their first half grades, position-by-position.
El-Bashir: The outside linebackers took a huge hit when Junior Galette suffered an Achilles’ tear before taking a single snap. Galette was expected to provide some much needed explosiveness from the edge (and a little bit of attitude). Alas, we won’t see him until next season, if ever. Ryan Kerrigan is tied for the team lead with 3.5 sacks and ranks 17th among all 3-4 outside linebackers with 19 quarterback hurries. His production thus far has been good, not elite. He wants to be elite. And now Kerrigan is dealing with a broken bone in his right hand that could sideline him against the Patriots. Rookie Preston Smith, meanwhile, has shown plenty of promise, racking up two sacks, a team-best three forced fumbles, two passes defended and a fumble recovery. I anticipate his role—and impact—will grow over the final nine games. Trent Murphy has been good against the run and has made strides as a pass rusher but he needs to finish (one sack). As for the inside linebackers, ProFootballFocus.com ranks Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson among the bottom 10 entering Week 8. That’s extreme but I also don’t think anyone would argue that Robinson and Riley can afford to pick it up.
Tandler: The Galette injury was a blow, although they conducted their draft and signed free agents all offseason without any idea that they would be able to sign a pass rusher of his capability to a minimum-salary contract in August. That’s why they drafted Smith, who is catching on in bursts but still isn’t showing the consistency the coaches want. When he does, he could supplant Murphy in the starting lineup. Tarik’s description of Murphy as a stout run defender who can’t get a ton of pass rush sounds more like a 3-4 end and his long-term future could be there. A couple of whiffs on the immobile Sam Bradford are what separates Kerrigan from being in the top 10 in the NFL in sacks; instead, the talk is of him not living up to his contract extension. And, yes, PFF rankings may be a bit too harsh on the inside backers but Robinson and Riley need to play better. In particular, they can’t miss tackles or take poor angles to ball carrier. When this group starts making tackles, both of ball carriers and running backs, it will be pretty good. But they’re not there yet.
Grading the Redskins at the bye: