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Need to Know: Who starts at inside linebacker?

Need to Know: Who starts at inside linebacker?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 4, 20 days before the Redskins start OTAs on May 24.


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

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 8
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 20
—Training camp starts (7/27) 84

Fan questions: Roles for Anderson and Smith, depth chart at ILB

All indications are that Anderson will play outside linebacker. It certainly seems that he wants to play there. “I'm going to be the best outside linebacker in the game,” he told us shortly after the Redskins drafted him. “That's what I'm going to do.”

Jay Gruden didn’t say directly but he expressed confidence that despite his relatively low weight for an edge player (253 lb. at the combine) he can set the edge against the run.

“If he's playing outside, nobody runs outside,” Gruden said. “He's great at setting that edge. He’s one of the best I've seen at setting the edge in the running game. He's a very good pass rusher with his tenacity and he has made a lot of splash plays at Alabama.”

It’s possible that the coaches will get him on the field and figure out that he is better suited to play inside. But as of right now he’s going to work with the OLBs.

What about Preston Smith? The two second-round picks are mirror images of each other. Smith has tremendous physical tools but a laid-back attitude. Anderson was not a combine star but he has a high motor and a tenacious attitude. Gruden said that he hopes that attitude is “going to rub off on a lot of people.” He likely is hoping that some of it will rub off on Smith.

That would be ideal. You can’t have too many good pass rushers and if Smith feels pushed by Anderson, so much the better. I’m sure that Greg Manusky will be happy to figure out how to utilize both if they are effective.

Assuming Anderson stays on the outside, you have three inside linebackers who are capable of starting. Will Compton and Mason Foster started here last year and Zach Brown made the Pro Bowl playing for the Bills.  

It seems likely that the starters will be Compton and Brown. Neither Foster nor Brown is well suited to playing the Mike linebacker position, which involves calling the defenses. Compton does that well and it seems likely that he will continue to do it.

Even if he doesn’t start, Foster should get plenty of snaps as the nickel linebacker. He filled in there last year when Su’a Cravens was injured. With Cravens now moving to safety we should see Foster back in the role he had for the last few games last year.

Martrell Spaight likely will be the backup Mike linebacker. He played about a game and a half there last year when Compton was injured and while he struggled some he showed some potential. I’m not sure what you mean by “pop” but we will have to see how he does if he gets another opportunity.

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

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One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

In theory, Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice working out of the same backfield should be an enormous boost for the Redskins this season.

In theory, Peterson's presence should allow Guice to slowly ease his way into the NFL during Washington's early contests, and in theory, Guice's availability should help Peterson stay fresher for 16 games since he won't have to be the one handling every carry.

But NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio doesn't exactly see the Redkins' running back situation playing out so peacefully. The NFL isn't a third-grade classroom; sharing isn't always caring.

"This is going to be a potential problem for the team because Adrian Peterson is not accustomed to giving up touches," Florio recently told NBC Sports Washington.

"When he was in New Orleans for not very long in 2017, he realized he wasn't getting the ball the way that he did in Minnesota," he continued. "He wanted the ball, he ended up being traded to Arizona where they had an injury need that made him the guy. Last year an injury need in Washington made him the guy."

Of the team's 339 rushing attempts by non-quarterbacks in 2018, Peterson was responsible for 251 of them. That means he was shouldered with 74-percent of the overall workload. 

During mandatory minicamp in early June, position coach Randy Jordan laid out his preferred ratio for Peterson and Guice now that they're together. What he wants sounds a lot more even than how last season's breakdown ended up looking.

“They are both different, but they are both explosive,” he said. “The thing is ideally you would like to see a 50/50, 60/40 [split]." 

Florio, however, is wary of how that could upset the future Hall of Famer.

"He wants to be the guy," Florio said. "Derrius Guice is going to — if he plays like he did before we saw that ACL tear last year — he's going to potentially eat into those touches and Adrian Peterson will not be happy about it and he will not be bashful about saying so."

While at the Ashburn podium following an offseason practice, Jay Gruden admitted that Peterson seems like a player who improves as his usage increases, but he ultimately explained he doesn't believe fewer carries will hurt Peterson. And you'd love to believe him.

Many offenses have thrived using multiple options on the ground, and it's an approach you're seeing more and more in pro football. Peterson and Guice can attack defenses in different ways, they have different strengths and they could each ease the burden on one another along with Chris Thompson, who you can't forget about.

Yet these are also two threats who are used to being the primary piece of their units. They're used to 20-plus touches and finding their rhythm at their own pace. So while Gruden, his staff and Redskins fans are focusing on the positive possibilities of a Peterson-Guice duo, Florio is less bullish.

"The more touches Guice gets, the more frustrated Peterson will be, because he knows he's only got so many years left to play football," Florio said. "He wants to get as many carries, as many yards as possible as he climbs higher and higher up the all-time rushing list. That's going to be a challenge for the team in 2019."


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Brian Mitchell says if Dwayne Haskins 'proves he's the best, he goes on the football field'

Brian Mitchell says if Dwayne Haskins 'proves he's the best, he goes on the football field'

Imagine a scenario in which three quarterbacks are set to battle it out for the starting spot. In the situations leading up to the Week 1 game, one quarterback has consistently played well while the other two have faltered at times. You'd obviously go with the guy who's looked the best, right?

But what if you knew the added information that the quarterback shining is a rookie who has no regular-season experience and only a few months of NFL practices under his belt, while the other two are veterans, one is familiar with the offensive system and the other has proven to be successful at points in his career. Would the labels impact your decision?

Obviously, this oddly specific scenario alludes to the quarterback competition going on with the Redskins. If rookie Dwayne Haskins performs the best leading up to the season, should he be given the nod over veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy despite their advantage in experience? According to NBC Sports Washington's Brian Mitchell, that's exactly how it should go.

"If Dwayne Haskins seems to show you that he's the best quarterback out there, why not play him," Mitchell said. "I don't think it's a situation where you have to play the veterans before him. If he is the best quarterback in training camp, he goes out in preseason and proves that he's the best, he goes on the football field."

For Mitchell, the decision on who is the starting quarterback doesn't revolve around experience or things of the past. All that matters is what is going on in the moment. If Dwayne Haskins sticks out through July and August, Mitchell believes he deserves the opportunity to be the guy for Washington. Rookie or veteran, it's about who's playing the best.

This way of choosing is also ideal to the former Redskin because it allows for Haskins progression and emergence to come naturally. By determining if he's ready or not solely on what is seen out of him, there's no risk of pushing him out there before he's ready or holding him back for longer than needed, according to Mitchell.

"I look at Dwayne Haskins in this way: You don't have to rush him, you don't have to truly patient," Mitchell said. "You allow him to go through the process."

Much like JP Finlay, Mitchell believes that Haskins was selected at No. 15 for a reason. Even if an "R" may show up next to his name this season, that shouldn't keep him off the field. If he looks ready, then Mitchell believes he should get the nod as early as Week 1.