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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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Redskins leave Philadelphia with more injuries than they came in with, somehow

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AP Images

Redskins leave Philadelphia with more injuries than they came in with, somehow

The Redskins went into Lincoln Financial Field somewhat banged up. They left in worse shape than they were when they arrived.

The most significant injury seemed to be to guard Brandon Scherff. Coach Jay Gruden said that he had an MCL injury and that he will get an MRI on Tuesday. He left the game late in the third quarter and did not return. Scherff rarely takes plays off and the feeling is that he could have a significant injury. He headed to the team bus to the airport with a brace on the knee.

OT Trent Williams came into the game with a patella injury in his knee and he aggravated it late in the game, missing the Redskins’ last couple of possessions. He did not practice all week to rest the injury. We will see as the week goes by if the injury will allow Williams to continue to play.

OT Morgan Moses sprained both ankles and he returned to the game after each injury. He undoubtedly will be very sore tomorrow and we will see how he recovers.

MORE: FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM A DISCOURAGING LOSS

The other reported injuries were more minor in nature, although they could cost the players some games. CB Fabian Moreau had a hamstring strain and he left the game. OLB Preston Smith, who has been one of the team’s best pass rushers this year, left the game with a groin strain. He attempted to return but he had to go back out. CB Josh Holsey had a chest contusion and he returned after going to the locker room to be examined.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' discouraging 34-24 loss vs. the Eagles

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' discouraging 34-24 loss vs. the Eagles

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ 34-24 loss to the Eagles:

The Redskins have to keep the hammer down—They scored the first time they had the ball and then they had a few empty possessions. Washington took a 10-3 lead but the Redskins then got into the cycle of short, ineffective offensive possessions getting their defense back on the field too soon. The way Carson Wentz is playing, if you give him enough chances you will pay for it.

They won’t win if they don’t run—The running backs carries 14 times. Sure, the game got away in the second half, reducing their opportunities, but the rushing game was an issue throughout. In the first half they had a pair of third and ones and a third and two and they passed all three times. All three were incomplete, which led to the issues in the first item here. If the Redskins have a balanced offense they have a shot at beating almost anyone. If they don’t run the ball enough the odds are against them.

MORE: REDSKINS OFFENSIVE, DEFENSIVE MVP FOR PHILLY GAME

Redskins fans have the Cleveland Browns to thank for 10 years of Wentz—The Browns played Moneyball and traded the rights to draft Wentz to the Eagles. Like just about everything the Browns do, it didn’t work out. Now the Redskins, Giants, and Cowboys will pay for the Browns’ mistake for years to come. That run out of the pack of rushing linemen was both amazing and critical. It turned a punt back to the Redskins, who were down by seven, into a first down and an eventual touchdown.

The defense needs to get itself off the field—It’s easy to blame the offense for the problems with possessing the ball. But the defense could do its part, too, by getting itself off the field. At times, it feels like the Redskins’ defense is better than it has been in years but they gave up touchdown drives of 81, 80, 80, and 75 yards. At some point you have to show you’re better and get a takeaway or just make a stop to get off the field. Until then, the group has not improved in a meaningful way. I should note that the injuries have something to do with it, for sure. Dunbar did not play poorly but they pay Josh Norman $15 million per year for a reason.

There is a lot of season left to be played—The Redskins are 3-3 and two games away from the midway point to the season. They would have to rely on an Eagles’ collapse to win the NFC East but it’s entirely possible that they could. All but one other second-place team has three losses and the Redskins get their shot at the Seahawks in a couple of weeks. Fans have every right to feel frustrated after this loss but it’s not the end of the line. There still is plenty for this team to play for. Some of the injured players aren’t coming back but if they can round into reasonably good health in the next few weeks they still have a lot that they can accomplish.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.