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Need to Know: Will the Redskins' Preston Smith start at OLB?

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Need to Know: Will the Redskins' Preston Smith start at OLB?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 26, 34 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today’s question is from Twitter:

The short answer is that it’s not very likely. But the other answer is that it doesn’t really matter.

If I had $100 in casino chips to bet on who will be lined up at right outside linebacker for the first snap against the Dolphins, I would put $95 on Trent Murphy, last year’s second-round pick, and the other $5 on Preston Smith, this year’s second rounder.

Why? Murphy has eight NFL starts and 595 NFL snaps under his best while Smith has none of either. During OTAs and minicamp this year, Murphy has done nothing that would warrant him losing his starting job. He has gotten bigger and, presumably, stronger and he during OTAs and minicamp he seemed to be more comfortable and confident in his second season of lining up at linebacker (he was an end at Stanford).

Meanwhile, Smith has look liked someone who has a lot to learn. And that is exactly what you should expect from a rookie second-round pick who is just starting the process of converting from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker. He has the physical tools needed to be successful but, as I noted in this post from last week, it will take him some time to get up to speed.

But here’s why who starts doesn’t really matter a whole lot. If you are the second-team right guard, you don’t play unless someone gets injured. Backup quarterbacks wait around until there is a five-alarm emergency of some sort. As a backup OLB, Smith will play a substantial number of snaps.

Last year Murphy did not start the first six games of the season; he was behind Brian Orakpo on the depth chart. But he still played about 30 snaps per game on defense, rotating in with some packages including some where he lined up as a lineman with his hand in the dirt. He relieved Orakpo, played alongside him in nickel situations, and occasionally relieved Ryan Kerrigan (although he takes off very few snaps).

Smith is likely to have a similar role this year. His length will help him in the trenches and he will be able to learn how to pass rush from both a two-point stance and from a down position.

And we’ll see what happens from there. My $100 bet discussed above is only in play for the opener. If Smith catches on quickly and proves to be a better option than Murphy he could be starting and Murphy could be the one coming off of the bench.

The real competition for the starting job could come in 2016 after Smith has a season under his belt. Although we have a long way to go, Smith's realistic chance at getting a starting job starts next year.

Timeline

—It’s been 180 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 79 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 34; Preseason opener @ Browns 48; final cuts 71

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

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The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

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USA Today Sports

The best players on the Redskins according to their Madden 19 ratings

Madden 19 won't be released to the public until August 10, but the player ratings for the top players on each NFL team have been released.

The video reaches the Redskins a little after four minutes in. The top nine players on the Redskins, according to their Madden 19 overall ratings are as follows:

  1. LT Trent Williams, 91
  2. RG Brandon Scherff, 88
  3. FS D.J. Swearinger, 86
  4. MLB Zach Brown, 85
  5. CB Josh Norman, 84
  6. RB Chris Thompson, 83
  7. WR Paul Richardson, 83
  8. QB Alex Smith, 81
  9. WR Jamison Crowder, 81

The list has Washington's two best linemen up top followed by its best skill position players and Zach Brown. Beyond Williams and Sherff, there's some debate to be had. Both Richardson and Crowder can make a serious case to be the team's best receiver. Crowder had 22 more receptions and 86 more yards than Richardson in 2017, but Richardson had six touchdowns to Crowder's three.

Smith is coming off arguably the best season of his career with Kansas City. He put up over 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career, posted career bests in quarterback rating, touchdown passes, interception percentage and completions. His rating as the fifth-best offensive player behind two other skill position players seems off.

These rankings will change throughout the season as more updates become available, but this is what there is to work with right now.

MORE REDSKINS COVERAGE

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Jaguars. 

Week 15 December 16, TIAA Bank Field

2017 Jaguars: 10-6, First in AFC South, lost AFC championship game 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 9

Early line: Redskins +8

Key additions: G Andrew Norwell, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Donte Moncrief, 

Key losses:WR Allen Hurns, WR Allen Robinson

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Blake Bortles was very inconsistent during the season and there was talk of the team looking for a replacement for him prior to their run in the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to get the team back into serious contention. 
  • The team also got an inconsistent season out of RB Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the draft. Can he put together the monster season that would justify his draft status and help elevate the Jaguars to elite status. 
  • The Jaguars went from 25thin scoring defense in 2016 to second last year. Will they fall back to the pack this year?

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 5-1. The Jaguars only win against them came in 2002.

Series notables

The first time: September 28, 1997, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium—In the second game ever played at the Redskins’ new stadium, Jacksonville took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, but then-Jags QB Mark Brunell threw a pair of interceptions that set up two Washington touchdowns and the Redskins won 24-12. Gus Frerotte threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Allen gained 122 yards on 36 carries. 

The last time: November 14, 2012, FedEx Field—Jay Gruden got his first win as the Redskins’ head coach in this one. Robert Griffin III went out of this game early with an injury and Kirk Cousins passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his place. It was the defense that dominated this game, racking up 10 sacks, tying the team record set in 1977. Ryan Kerrigan got four of those sacks, tying the team individual record for sacks in a game. The Redskins won 41-10.

The best time: October 1, 2006, FedEx Field—A taught, exciting game came to an explosive end when Santana Moss snared a pass that Mark Brunell perhaps should not have thrown and streaked to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.

The reason the throw was risky was that two defenders were near Moss as Brunell fired it to the speedy receiver. Somehow both of them missed it. Moss grabbed it, spun around and bolted the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard game winner.

It was Moss’ third touchdown reception of the day. In the first quarter, he caught a long pass from Brunell and executed a nifty spin move near the goal line to complete the 55-yard touchdown play. An eight-yard Moss TD catch early in the third quarter put the Redskins up by 10 but the Jags battled back to tie it with six seconds left. That set up Moss’ overtime heroics. 

The worst time: November 10, 2002, Alltel Stadium—The Redskins came into the game riding a two-game winning streak and at 4-4 they were squarely in playoff contention. A strong running game had been their best asset during their surge to .500 and, with the Jaguars sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, there was every reason to believe that the Redskins would take the land route to another win.

But coach Steve Spurrier had different ideas. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

His defense didn’t play very well either. The Redskins scored first but the Jaguars scored 26 unanswered points and came out with a 26-7 win.

Redskins schedule series

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