Edgy describes Ryan Anderson’s demeanor, playing style and music choices.
The Washington Redskins’ outside linebacker and Preston Smith's primary backup desires “hard (expletive)” rap before games while working up a physical and mental lather. Tracks from Mystikal, Lil Jon and “any Young Jeezy” crank through Anderson’s headphones. R&B crooners need not apply.
During this season, one of Anderson’s position coaches offered a musical example of why the second-year defender must modify his habits for a more harmonious future.
“[The coach] told me at one practice this year to stop trying to do so much (on the field),” Anderson told NBC Sports Washington. “Just be John Legend instead of Mystikal or Lil Jon. When you think about that, it makes sense. Be smooth, calm down, be John Legend.”
If the organization believes an Anderson transformation from supporting cast to starter is possible, call it a rap on Smith’s career with the Redskins.
Smith ranks among Washington’s most prominent free agents. The organization showed little initiative in signing the edge rusher to an extension before or during the 2019 campaign.
“I'd love to have [Preston] back for sure, but obviously free agency is what it is,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said late in the regular season. “He's earned the right to go out and shop himself around, but I'm hopeful that we can get him back."
From the Redskins perspective, whether any return depends on salary cap scenarios and perception of replacement options.
Washington has $15.5 million in salary cap space available for 2019 according to Spotrac.com, and a lengthy list of roster needs. Letting Crowder and Clinton-Dix escape creates more holes. The Redskins have a backup option at running back with Derrius Guice returning from injury.
The outside linebacker scenario falls somewhere in between, though no direct battle exists between Smith, a second-round in selection in 2015, and Anderson.
Smith, a three-year starter, played in 81 percent of all defensive snaps last season. He has not missed a game in four seasons.
His backup took the field on 16 percent of snaps last season. Injuries sidelined Anderson for five of 32 career games.
Smith’s four sacks in 2019 set a career-low, yet doubles Anderson’s overall total.
Despite the limited sack total, Pro Football Focus rated Smith eighth among all NFL outside linebackers last season.
“I still think his future is very bright in the National Football League,” Gruden said. “He is young, he is strong, he is long, he is smart. Obviously, from a production standpoint, he only had four sacks this year and that's low for a guy like that. But, I think he will get more and more the more he plays."
Anderson’s primary advantage is financial.
NFL.com considers the 26-year-old Smith the 17th best free agent this off-season, meaning a sizeable pay raise in his future after concluding a four-year, $5.8 rookie contract
Anderson, whose rookie contract extends through 2020, is on the books for a $1.7 million cap hit next season.
The Redskins do not need exemplary production from the burly 2017 second-round selection. Receiving a steady and forceful effort as a run stuffer and pocket-collapser works.
“Ryan Anderson has been in and out with the injuries, but he's done solid (work) with his assignments,” Gruden said.
An unwillingly participant in media sessions during his rookie season, Anderson turned engaging with reporters in Year 2. Chatting while seated in front of his locker at Redskins Park, he labeled his sophomore season “up and down,” but also recognized growth with his mental game.
“This year [the game] finally started to slow down for me. (Unlike) last year, everything wasn't a blur,” Anderson told NBC Sports Washington.
Washington often uses its outside linebackers to create a perimeter edge, forcing opposing ball carriers inside where teammates await. That is a good use of the powerful 253-pound Anderson.
Whether the Redskins use him as the 2019 starter is beyond his control.
“I’m just trying to get myself together so I’m in the best shape, so there’s no question about the position when I’m playing," the University of Alabama product said. “I don’t want to go out there and get the snaps I’ve been asking for and then I’m not producing.”
Anderson also plans on letting the assistant coach’s Legend-ary advice sink in.
“I’m a guy that doesn't even really listen to that kind of music,' Anderson said of Legend's soulful fare, "but at that the end of the day it makes sense.”
As does going with the flow until the Redskins sort out their off-season strategy at outside linebacker.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
The Capitals enter the All-Star break losers of seven straight after a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
In desperate need of a win before the All-Star Break, the Capitals kept Alex Ovechkin in the lineup delaying his one-game suspension and started Braden Holtby for the second consecutive night. Yet, the result was the same as they gave up six goals for the third straight game and for the fourth time during the current losing streak. Washington has been outscored 36-18 during the streak.
Here are four reasons the Caps lost.
Kadri is always a thorn in the side of the Caps, most notably for his knee-on-knee hit on Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs back in 2017. He was again a pest against Washington with a hat trick for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
The Caps scored late in the first period, but Kadri scored with 26 seconds remaining to even the game at one. Kadri also extended Toronto’s lead to two goals for the first time at the 2:10 mark into the second period of a one-timer from the high slot. He completed the hat trick later in the third as William Nylander shot the puck, hit both posts and the puck went straight to the stick of Kardi who had an empty net yawning.
Washington has now given up a hat trick in three straight games and in four of their last five.
A quick response
A growing problem for Washington during this losing streak is allowing quick response goals. Nicklas Backstrom put the Caps on the board with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first period.
Great, Washington is headed to the locker room up 1-0, right? Not so fast.
Morgan Rielly dumped the puck and tried to pass it to the middle. Nylander kicked it back behind the net and the play should have been dead, but Michal Kempny tipped it back out to center and no one seemed to know where it was except Kadri who came streaking in and tapped it past Holtby to tie the game.
The goal came just 47 seconds after Backstrom put Washington on the board.
An untimely penalty
Ovechkin is doing just about everything he can to keep the Caps in this games and he scored again on Wednesday. But tonight's game really turned on an Ovechkin penalty in the second period.
Ovechkin was called for cross-checking Kaspari Kapanen about two minutes after Nikita Zaitsev tied the game at 2. At that point, Washington had never trailed in the game. They had yielded leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but overall were playing significantly better than they did on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
Auston Matthews would go on to score on the resulting power play. That would be the first of three unanswered goals for Toronto.
A rough penalty kill for John Carlson
The Leafs were able to cash in on the penalty kill because of a rough shift for defenseman John Carlson. With the puck on his stick behind the net, Carlson did not try clearing the puck around the boards. Instead, he turned up ice and fired it right to John Tavares. Tavares blocked the clear and kept the puck in. Later on in the shift, Matthews was skating in looking for a shot. Carlson dropped to a knee looking for the shot block, but he was too quick. Matthews curled it around a now helpless Carlson, then fired the puck through Holtby to give Toronto a lead they would not relinquish.
MORE CAPS NEWS: