Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.
Up today …
Outside linebacker to-do list
Tandler: The Redskins have one of the best pass rushing trios of outside linebackers in the game. Between mainstay Ryan Kerrigan, free agent Junior Galette, and the up-and-coming Preston Smith, the Redskins are in good shape.
The problem is that there are only two outside linebacker spots and during OTAs Joe Barry and company will start the process of figuring out how to utilize the team’s trio of potential double-digit sackers. They probably will have to do it without Galette on the field; they won’t have him doing much of anything as he continues his rehab from the torn Achilles that ended his 2015 season before it ever got started.
The other item on the to-do list during OTAs is to start the process of finding a fourth OLB. Trent Murphy is packing on pounds and moving to the defensive line. Houston Bates was active for 10 games last year but most of the action he saw was on special teams. The other four outside backers on the roster, Willie Jefferson, Lyndon Trail, James Gayle, and Shiro Davis, are all very green. They could see what they have in Bates and the other four during OTAs and decide from there if they need to seek a veteran reserve.
El-Bashir: The Redskins are expected to receive a couple of major boosts at this position in 2016: Junior Galette returns from an Achilles injury and Greg Manusky joins the staff as an assistant.
Since Tandler already touched on Galette’s return, I’ll discuss the addition of Manusky, who will focus on Washington's outside linebackers after spending the previous nine seasons as defensive coordinator in Indianapolis, San Diego and San Francisco.
Manusky’s hiring gives the Redskins a full-time OLBs coach for the first since 2014, when, by the way, Kerrigan enjoyed a career year, recording 13.5 sacks (seventh in the NFL) and five forced fumbles (tied for first). Kerrigan has said many times that working with Brian Baker and putting up big numbers wasn't a coincidence.
“I mean, it’s just the specificity of it, getting individual attention in the meeting rooms, getting individual attention on the practice field,” Kerrigan said earlier this offseason. “It helps with all the finer aspects of being an outside linebacker. We had that a couple of years back with Brian Baker. I thought that it was very effective to have a specific coach for that.”
Coaching, preparation, personnel usage and schemes matter in football—perhaps a little more than other pro sports. And pairing an experienced coach like Manusky with a talented trio such as Kerrigan, Galette and Preston Smith should help the Redskins’ primary pass rushers reach their potential. Class begins on Tuesday with the start of OTAs.
Previous to-do list entries: