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Redskins 2017 roster battles: Who starts opposite Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: Who starts opposite Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back 

Outside Linebacker

The contenders: Ryan Kerrigan is the lone sure thing in the Redskins outside linebacker group, but that doesn't mean the unit is without talent. Kerrigan has averaged double digit sacks over the least three seasons, and it's safe to expect the same in 2017. What will be interesting to watch is who lines up opposite Kerrigan. Trent Murphy impressed last season, getting nine sacks in his first breakout season after a second-round selection in the 2014 draft. To start the 2017 season, however, Murphy will sit out the first four games for a substance violation suspension. Preston Smith slipped to five sacks after an eight sack rookie season in 2015. Those three got the vast majority of the snaps on the outside of the Redskins 3-4 base defense.

In 2017, second round pick Ryan Anderson will compete for snaps, likely right away. A highly productive player at Alabama, Anderson has the size to set the edge against the run that Washington has needed from their outside linebackers. He doesn't have the explosive athleticism of Smith, but his effort and strength will allow him to turn the corner against NFL tackles. The wild card in the outside linebacker room is Junior Galette. Blessed with elite speed off the edge, Galette proved to be a dominant edge rusher for the Saints in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He hasn't played since. Two straight years of Achilles injuries have kept Galette off the field. If he can remain healthy the Redskins would have a very deep group of highly competent edge rushers. 

The winner is...

Finlay: Let's preface this by making one thing clear: No good football team can ever have enough edge rushers. NFL teams pay a serious premium on the edge, both in guaranteed money and in draft position. If the Redskins get to Week 1 with Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy, Galette and Anderson all healthy and ready to go, they will be in a strong spot. And we know the Week 1 starter won't be Murphy because of the suspension.

Beyond that, it's just too hard to predict Galette to start. Injuries have derailed him for two seasons, and he will have to show coaches he is the same player before he gets back on the field. Plus, coaches would be smart to limit Galette's snaps to true pass rushing situations to preserve his health. 

That leaves Smith and Anderson, and that could be just what the Redskins brass wants. Smith is an elite athlete, but as Jay Gruden said repeatedly in 2016, the coaching staff also felt the need to push the former Mississippi State star. Maybe Anderson's presence - a hard-charging rookie - will push Smith to his best. The guess here is Smith is on the opposite side of Kerrigan against the Eagles, but Anderson will play plenty. 

Looking at 2016, Kerrigan led the Redskins edge defenders with 477 pass rush snaps. Murphy and Smith were not far behind though, with 417 and 400 snaps respectively. New Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky plans to be aggressive, and the best defenses have fresh legs to rush passers in the fourth quarter. With Anderson's arrival, and perhaps the return of Galette, the Redskins should have just that. And that should make them a much better defense on third down, and in general.

Tandler: 

A good assessment here by JP. I’ll add a quote from Gruden from just a few hours after the team drafted Anderson. He recalled watching film with Anderson when the prospect paid a pre-draft visit to Redskins Park:

“Watching film with him, he’s standing up watching film and talking about everybody’s job. He’s just a very high energy, high motor, tenacious guy and I think it’s going to rub off on a lot of people.”

There is no doubt that one of the people he hopes that Anderson’s attitude affects is Smith. If it does, then Smith should retain his starting job. But look for Anderson and Galette if he’s healthy and Murphy when his suspension is over to rotate in plenty. Waves of fresh, talented pass rushers are a quarterback’s nightmare and that is what Manusky would like to have at his disposal this season. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.