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Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?

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Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 7

Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?

El-Bashir: I’m not sure you can safely say the Redskins are set at any position on defense, but I do believe they’ve got a solid, young foundation with Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Trent Murphy manning the position.

Kerrigan overcame knee and hand injuries to lead the team with 9.5 sacks and 46 quarterback hurries, which ranked fifth among all 3-4 outside linebackers, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Smith came on strong down the stretch and led all NFL rookies with eight sacks in the regular season before recording a sack for a safety in the Redskins’ Wild Card loss to the Packers…and he’s just starting to scratch the surface. Murphy, meantime, made some modest strides late in his second season on defense, recording two sacks and a forced fumble in December.

The X-factor in all of this is the health and contract status of Junior Galette, who missed the 2015 campaign after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon in training camp. Galette is set to become a free agent, but both he and GM Scot McCloughan have indicated that the expectation is that the sides will work our a deal. The only question, then, is how healthy will he be? Galette expects to be 100-percent in time for OTAs, but there’s always some doubt until it actually happens.

If the team believes Galette, who had a combined 22 sacks for the Saints in 2013 and '14, will be good to go, then a foursome of Kerrigan, Galette, Smith and Murphy sounds pretty good. But if there’s one thing the Redskins learned last season, it’s this: because of injuries, you can never have too many quality reserves.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that I believe the Redskins are in decent shape at outside linebacker. So I wouldn’t be in favor of making a significant investment in a free agent, but I’d be all for using a draft pick to bolster a premium position—especially with McCloughan making the selection.

Tandler: Although I’m generally in agreement with Tarik here, I do see some red flags that might add to the urgency of getting some upgrades at the position.

The first is Galette’s Achilles. He could be 100 percent “healthy” by OTAs or, more realistically, training camp but still not be his old self, the guy who posted double-digit sacks in 2013 and 2014. His game relies on explosion and if Galette is even a little bit less explosive his effectiveness as a pass rusher could diminish significantly.

One more thing on Galette—while I believe he was sincere when he told us that he would definitely return to the Redskins and that McCloughan thinks a deal will get done, that’s no sure thing until he actually signs a contract for 2016.

And there is no guarantee that Preston Smith will have a linear career progression. We’d like to think that his career will follow a linear progression and that he’ll add a few sacks next year. But Brian Orakpo had 11 sacks as a rookie and his total dropped to eight in his second year. We can’t rule out a sophomore slump for Smith.

But injury problems and performance declines can happen to any player at any position. It would be great to have every position stocked with top-notch players but even the best teams aren’t in a situation like that. I think that outside linebacker is in a state where the Redskins can leave well enough alone but keep an eye out for a draft-day bargain or low-cost free agent to serve as some insurance.

 

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

The news about Arie Kouandjio’s quad injury didn’t sound good when NBC Sports Washington broke it a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t sound any better when Jay Gruden said that they were seeking a second opinion. 

And now we have word that Kouandjio will be out for the season, per multiple media reports. While there was some initial hope that he might be able to play at some point this season, he is likely to be put on injured reserve soon. 

The corresponding move is expected to be the signing of guard Isaiah Williams, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. He spent training camp with the Redskins in 2016 and 2017 before being released in the final cuts. Last year he also spent time with the Chiefs and the Colts but he has yet to appear in an NFL game. 

At worst, the Redskins have lost their starter at left guard. Kouandjio was set to compete with Shawn Lauvao for that job. Lauvao, who has been the starter at left guard going into the season for each of the last four years, would have been tough to unseat, but the 26-year-old Kouandjio may have had the inside track.

And at best, the Redskins lost experienced depth. Last year, when injuries hit hard along the offensive line, Kouandjio was re-signed and he started six games. It’s tough to lose experienced depth before the players even put pads on.

We will see if the Redskins make a move to shore up the guard position. Over the next couple of weeks, teams will be evaluating their veteran players and their rookies to see if they have younger and cheaper options. That could lead to some serviceable players getting released or some quality options being put on the trading block. 

The Redskins likely are set to get four compensatory draft picks in 2019, which would give them a total of 11 selections. They certainly could afford to deal one of those picks if they are offered a chance to upgrade at left guard. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

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

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Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

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Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 22, 66 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins player one-liners, defense

A few weeks ago, I did an early projection of the Redskins’ 53-man roster on offense and defense. As the team gets ready for OTAs here is a comment on each player expected to make the team on defense; the offense was up yesterday

Defensive line

—Even though he played just 159 snaps last year before getting injured, the experience that Jonathan Allen gained in the offseason and training camp last year will help him get off to a strong start this season. 

—​Daron Payne will improve as the season goes on but he should be of some help stopping the run, the team’s most glaring weakness, right off the bat. 

—​Matt Ioannidis could play his way into an early contract extension a year from now, something nobody saw coming a year ago. 

—Last year Anthony Lanier played a little over half a season’s worth of snaps and got 5.0 sacks so I’ll put his over/under for this year at 7.5. 

—I think many fans see “Redskins veteran free agent D-lineman” and associate “bust” but Stacy McGee played pretty well last year. 

—Will Tim Settle be in at nose tackle for the first snap in Week 1?

—The coaches would like to be able to keep Ziggy Hood on the roster, but injuries and other issues could make him a victim of the roster numbers game. 

Inside linebackers

—​Zach Brown struggled a bit before injuries forced him out of the last three games, but he still finished in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles. 

—The team re-signing Mason Foster in late January was a low-key but potentially very impactful move. 

—After getting cut and then returning in November last year, Zach Vigil probably will be employed with the Redskins for all of the 2018 season. 

—It will be interesting to see how much the Redskins try to get out of converted safety Josh Harvey-Clemons as a nickel linebacker this year. 

—The Redskins moved up in the sixth round to draft Shaun Dion Hamilton, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he has a regular role on defense before the season is out. 

Outside linebackers

—All Preston Smith needs to do to hit it big in free agency is add a few sacks to his 2017 total and get a few more takeaways. 

—​Ryan Kerrigan already got paid, he’s a few more good years away from making the Redskins Ring of Fame. 

—I predict that Ryan Anderson gets his first NFL sack in Week 2 against the Colts. 

—You usually think of outside linebackers rotating in when it’s the nickel defense, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pernell McPhee be a regular in short-yardage situations. 

Cornerbacks

—I think Josh Norman will the dancing in the end zone at some point this season; he is long overdue to get a pick six (or a pick of any sort for that matter).

—The first time I noticed Quinton Dunbar playing cornerback was when he lined up against Odell Beckham in 2015. 

—The success of the Redskins’ decisions to trade Kendall Fuller and to let Bashaud Breeland leave as a free agent will hinge mostly on how well Fabian Moreau plays in his second year in the NFL.

—Realistically, the Redskins can hope to get 10 or 12 good games out of Orlando Scandrick

—And because Scandrick is unlikely to be healthy for 16 games, the ability of Josh Holsey to step in when needed will be critical. 

—If the Redskins can get a few good punt returns and 75 snaps at nickel corner from Greg Stroman he will be worth the seventh-round pick they used to draft him. 

Safeties

—With a year in the defense under his belt, D.J. Swearinger is a candidate to make his first Pro Bowl. 

—After Jay Gruden compared him to Jordan Reed, there is a lot of pressure on Montae Nicholson to stay on the field and perform well when he is out there. 

—Even though he started eight games last year I think the coaches view Deshazor Everett as more of a special teams guy and situational defender than a safety they want playing 70 snaps a game. 

—​Troy Apke has a lot to learn and it remains to be seen if he can go from being a fast guy to being a fast NFL football player.

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 21
—Training camp starts (7/26) 66
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 80

The Redskins last played a game 142 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 110 days. 

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