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Need to Know: How will the Redskins handle the logjam at outside linebacker?

Need to Know: How will the Redskins handle the logjam at outside linebacker?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 10, 14 days before the Redskins start OTAs on May 24.

Timeline

It’s been 129 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 123 days.

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 2
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 14
—Training camp starts (7/27) 78

How will the Redskins handle a logjam at outside linebacker?

Let’s take these two related questions to look at the whole inside-outside linebacker question here.

From everything I have heard, second-round pick Ryan Anderson is going to be an outside linebacker. In a conference call shortly after he was drafted, Anderson declared, “I'm going to be the best outside linebacker in the game.” Apparently, it would be news to him if the Redskins planned on putting him on the inside.

Many fans have drawn the conclusions that Anderson can play inside because of his size. Jay Gruden didn’t directly say that Anderson is an outside LB but he did say that his weight, 253 pounds at the combine, would not be an impediment to him playing outside. “If he's playing outside, nobody runs outside,” said Gruden shortly after the team took Anderson with the 49th pick in the draft. “He's great at setting that edge.”

To be sure, the coaches could get him out of the field, run him through some drills and scrimmages, and decide that he might be suited to lining up on the inside. And it’s possible that he will occasionally line up inside in certain blitz packages in nickel situations. But a look with Anderson on the inside when the Redskins are in their base 3-4 defense currently is not in the plans.

That leaves a logjam at outside linebacker. The Redskins have Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, and Anderson. All are first- or second-round picks except Galette and he had double-digit sacks in each of the last two seasons he played.

The Redskins carried four outside linebackers most of last year with Houston Bates joining Smith, Kerrigan, and Murphy. The addition of Anderson and the return of Galette from injury will put Bates on the bubble.

That still leaves the Redskins with five OLBs. Murphy will be suspended the first four weeks of the season so they will carry the other four in Weeks 1-4. When Murphy returns, they will add him to the 53-man roster. But, as Brandon notes, that’s not what is in doubt. Will they be able to keep all five on the game-day 46-man roster?

I believe they will find a way to put all five in uniform. Special teams will be the key. If all OLBs with the exceptions of Kerrigan and possibly Galette, can contribute on special teams the coaches can make it happen. Last year, inside linebacker Terence Garvin was active 16 games and played special teams almost exclusively (58 snaps on defense). The fifth outside linebacker could take the roster spot and the game-day active spot vacated by Garvin, who was not re-signed.

And what if an OLB is not enthusiastic about playing special teams? He could then find himself on the inactive list. It’s a different position, but ask RB Matt Jones about it.

It should be noted here that the Week 5 game that we’re talking about here will be played on October 5, a little less than five months from now. A lot can happen between now and then. In particular, while Galette appears to be on track to recover from the Achilles injury he suffered last July, I would not be placing any big futures bets on his health when October rolls around.

But if he can play, fitting five edge rushers on to the 46-man roster will be a good problem for Gruden and Greg Manusky to have.  

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

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Alex Smith at Redskins practice working with Dwayne Haskins (VIDEO)

Alex Smith at Redskins practice working with Dwayne Haskins (VIDEO)

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of Alex Smith's greusome leg injury, and in the 12 months since, the veteran quarterback has made tremendous strides. He's also become a helpful force for rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

On Wednesday, Haskins explained that he meets with Smith nearly every day and that he's "been a really great voice" as the rookie tries to learn how to handle the on-field and off-field demands of life in the NFL.

"I realy appreciate since him since he's been here with me trying to help me," Haskins said of Smith. 

When the Redskins players got on the practice field Wednesday, some of that relationship was on display. Smith worked with Haskins, and the other Redskins quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Case Keenum, going through individual drills.

It's important to note that next season Haskins and Smith are the only quarterbacks under contract with the Redskins. While it's far from a certainty Smith can get back on the field, he's obviously working hard towards that goal. It's a good thing both players are close, because next summer, they also could be competing. 

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Rushing to judgment on Dwayne Haskins? Maybe these numbers will change your mind

Rushing to judgment on Dwayne Haskins? Maybe these numbers will change your mind

Dwayne Haskins has thrown 57 passes in his first two NFL starts, and while everyone — from Dwayne to his coaches to his teammates to Redskins fans — would've liked those attempts to have generated more production and success, it's necessary to keep that number in mind.

Again: He's thrown just 57 passes as a starter in the NFL.

Despite that miniscule amount, some are rushing to judgment about the rookie's long-term future in the league. It's more than fine to look at what he's done through two starts and closely analyze it and even criticize some of it, but it's far too early to say definitively what he will become as a pro.

(Note: His appearances against the Giants and Vikings aren't being taken into consideration in this story, due to him coming into both contests while trailing and without a full week of reps with the first-stringers. He struggled in New York and Minnesota, but he was put in spots where struggles were almost certain.)

To put it simply: His past two efforts, while discouraging, don't mean he's a completely doomed passer who should start considering other careers. And to emphasize that fact, here's an exercise.

Let's put the stat lines from a few quarterbacks' first two starts next to each other, but withhold their names. For example, check out what this pair of signal callers did in their first and second times out as the No. 1 option: 

  • QB A - 34-of-52 (65.3-percent completion rate), 466 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INTs
  • QB B - 34-of-67 (50.7-percent completion rate), 357 yards, 1 TD, 5 INTs

QB A is a baller while QB B is a scrub, right? Not exactly. QB A is Marcus Mariota. QB B is Matthew Stafford. Mariota is currently sitting behind Ryan Tannehill and almost surely won't be a Titan in 2020, while Stafford has been entrenched in Detroit since 2009.

Here's another comparsion: 

  • QB A - 45-of-66 (68.1-percent completion rate), 446 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
  • QB B - 22-of-46 (47.8-percent completion rate), 319 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs

Look at that 20-plus percent difference in completion percentage between QB A and QB B, plus the large edge the former has over the latter in yardage. Well, QB A is EJ Manuel and QB B is Matt Ryan. Yep.

The point of this story is setting in by now, but here's one more side-by-side: 

  • QB A - 34-of-57 (59.6-percent completion rate), 358 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT 
  • QB B - 43-of-76 (56.6-percent completion rate), 533 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs 

QB A doesn't come close to matching QB B's yardage output, but he does have a slightly better (though still not ideal) completion percentage and two fewer picks. Turns out, QB A is actually Dwayne Haskins while QB B is Andrew Luck. If there were any folks in Indy ready to call Luck a bust through two starts, they surely now realize how foolish they were being then.

Of course, there have been young players — like Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes — who looked like stars the minute they took over. Unfortunately, Haskins doesn't find himself on that immediate path.

Also, while it'd be unfair for the Redskins to make a decision on whether Haskins is the answer after he's started twice, the reality is he may only get six more chances. Washington is going to have a premium draft pick next April and could choose another highly touted arm. It doesn't need to settle on how it feels about Haskins yet, but that date could be coming somewhat soon, meaning he must improve quickly.

Regardless, those who want to grade Haskins and evaluate him right now absolutely can, but those who want to call it one way or the other need to stop. As the above numbers show, if two starts was the be-all and end-all for pro passers, Marcus Mariota would be a legend while Matt Ryan would be selling insurance.

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