With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond.
No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart
No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?
No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?
No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?
No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?
No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?
No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?
No. 3: After Kerrigan and Preston, do the Redskins have enough pass rush?
Ryan Kerrigan does not get the national respect he deserves. Year after year, Kerrigan proves to be one of the best sack specialists in the NFL. Last season, he finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 13 sacks, and ranks in the Top 5 for sacks over the last three years.
Kerrigan is durable and more than capable, and gives the Washington defense an anchor at outside linebacker. Opposite Kerrigan comes Preston Smith, a fourth-year player that has shown a ton of potential and the ability to take over games.
Smith is yet to go for double digit sacks in a season, but going into a contract year, this might be his best shot. He also contributes in other ways; an ability to tip passes and grab interceptions, force fumbles with his long frame, and even enough speed to keep up in some pass coverages.
Kerrigan is a high-end Mercedes Benz. Smith is a 3-series BMW with a chance at the M3 engine. After that, the cars don't look so good.
Make no mistake: Free agent addition Pernell McPhee could be a great value signing for Washington. If he stays healthy.
He hasn't played a 16-game season since 2014, and last year, he started just five games and logged only four sacks. His frame is much bigger than a typical 3-4 outside linebacker, which means he might help more against the run in base defense. McPhee graded out well by Pro Football Focus last year, and plenty of scouts think he can deliver this fall. Again, if he stays healthy.
After McPhee comes second-year man Ryan Anderson. He delivered zero as a rookie. Zero.
Plenty of players, however, make a big improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. Maybe Anderson is that player in 2018.
A second-round pick in 2017, Anderson played sparingly in 14 games last year and delivered just 11 tackles. No sacks. Coaches said Anderson was not in NFL shape when he arrived as a rookie, but that excuse won't fly this time around in training camp.
The Redskins need Anderson now, in a way the team did not last year.
Going to camp in 2017, outside linebacker had strong depth. Kerrigan, Smith, Trent Murphy and Junior Galette were the veterans Anderson could learn behind. Now Murphy is in Buffalo and Galette is unsigned.
There is some hint that Galette could still land back in Washington. The team does not have a true speed rusher, and Galette would change that immediately. Kerrigan is a brute force tactician, and Smith is an athletic handful, but neither possess the speed of Galette.
That signing seems like a long shot, and odds are the Redskins will need a lot from Anderson or McPhee. Or both. Neither Kerrigan nor Smith has ever missed a game in their career, a remarkable feat, but hardly something the organization should rely on.
Improved play along the interior of the defensive line will help the outside by a large margin. If Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis collapse pockets from the inside, then Kerrigan and Smith will feast off the edges.
That could trickle down for McPhee and Anderson as well. But much as the defensive line improves with more depth and rotating players, so too does outside pass rush. Washington made a smart move to bolster their interior defensive line this offseason, but it left the defense a little leaner on the outside.
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