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Q&A with Ryan Kerrigan

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Q&A with Ryan Kerrigan

Second-year Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan stopped by the Comcast SportsNet studios last week and talked to us about the upcoming season.Youve talked about the need to get more consistent. What specifically do you have to do to accomplish that?
Its just little things. Its taking a good pad level every snap, good hand placement. Its just little things. Not false stepping when Im coming out of my stance and being able to produce week in and week out.Are we talking about improving technique, more reps?
It is a technical thing, for the most part. Ive got to really hone in on my skills and techniques throughout training camp and try to get it down to where its every time, not just a sometimes thing.There was no offseason program last year, your rookie season, due to the lockout. Do you appreciate the value of the program now that youve been through it?
I do think that having the offseason is very valuable for rookies coming in, not necessarily from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. Last year we were installing every day during training camp but now weve installed most of the defense, now were just mastering them, were not learning them as much a were mastering them. Thats whats going to be the key for us.Lou Spanos left his job as LB coach to become the defensive coordinator at UCLA. How are things different under new linebackers coach Bob Slowik?
We all know Lou, and Lou is a heck of a guy and I hope he does well, I know he will, at UCLA. But coach Slowik is a very good coach. I say I need to work on technique, then hes a good coach for me because hes very technically sound, he knows where you need to be and not just knowing what I need to do to do something better but how I need to do it. So thats big for me and Im really lucky to have him from that standpoint. Hes coached a lot of really great players and some great defenses so hes a good addition for our linebacker group.Many have said that the Redskins have one of the very best linebacker corps in the league. Do you guys take pride in that?
Absolutely. I think every group will say that they want to be the best but we really, really take pride in it because we feel like with the guys we have coming back, a 15-year guy in London Fletcher, one of the best linebackers to play the game. Brian Orakpo coming off of one side and then Perry Riley, who really played well in the back half of last season. Were really excited about the depth, too, with Rob Jackson and Markus White.How is rookie Keenan Robinson doing?
Hes looking pretty good. What I appreciate out of Keenan is that hes come in and he does extra things. He watches extra film, he does extra things to take care of his body that are not necessarily required of him but it will help him perform better. That will pay off for him down the road if he keeps learning and keeps taking care of himself physically he has a chance to have a long and successful career. I always like to see what a guy does thats not required of him, what he does on his own that he knows will help himself and will help the team. I see that out of Keenan.If the offense becomes more dynamic with RG3 at quarterback, will the defense benefit by being able to play with the lead more often
Whether we have the lead or not we have to perform but when teams have to drop back and throw the ball thats an ideal situation for not only myself because Im a pass rusher but for the way our defense is designed, thats what its for. So were excited about the addition of Griffin because hes the Heisman Trophy winner, he was a heck of a college player. From what Ive seen throughout OTAs an minicamp, hopefully he can be a heck of a pro, too.What about going up against RG3 in practice?
It will be tough but I guess it will be good practice for when we play Philly with Michael Vick because hes a heck of a runner, an heck of an athlete but a really great quarterback, too. Not just an athlete, he has a heck of an arm.Youll be in your second year playing opposite Brian Orakpo. How do your games compliment each other?
We both attack the passer with different kinds of rushes. Hes a really explosive, really powerful guy and I try to use some power but I use my hands a lot. We both can compliment each other very well and this team is really depending on us this year to step it up.Are you getting more used to playing linebacker rather than defensive end?
Its starting to become more natural. Thats what gets me excited this year because last year was the first year of my whole life I never played with my hand in the dirt. It was tough at first to generate the same kind of power vs. when youre in a three-point stance. Im glad that Ive had OTAs to work on it and perfect it because I feel myself getting better.Is pass coverage one of the things that is coming more naturally to you?
It is. The way our defense is designed Im never put in a position where they think Im in a bad matchup. Its feeling more natural and Im feeling more natural in space.

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John Legend, Lil Jon and other factors weighing on Redskins' decision with free agent Preston Smith

John Legend, Lil Jon and other factors weighing on Redskins' decision with free agent Preston Smith

Edgy describes Ryan Anderson’s demeanor, playing style and music choices.

The Washington Redskins’ outside linebacker and Preston Smith's primary backup desires “hard (expletive)” rap before games while working up a physical and mental lather. Tracks from Mystikal, Lil Jon and “any Young Jeezy” crank through Anderson’s headphones. R&B crooners need not apply.

During this season, one of Anderson’s position coaches offered a musical example of why the second-year defender must modify his habits for a more harmonious future.

“[The coach] told me at one practice this year to stop trying to do so much (on the field),” Anderson told NBC Sports Washington. “Just be John Legend instead of Mystikal or Lil Jon. When you think about that, it makes sense. Be smooth, calm down, be John Legend.”

If the organization believes an Anderson transformation from supporting cast to starter is possible, call it a rap on Smith’s career with the Redskins.

Smith ranks among Washington’s most prominent free agents. The organization showed little initiative in signing the edge rusher to an extension before or during the 2018 campaign.

“I'd love to have [Preston] back for sure, but obviously free agency is what it is,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said late in the regular season. “He's earned the right to go out and shop himself around, but I'm hopeful that we can get him back."

Slot receiver Jamison Crowder, running back Adrian Peterson and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix also hit open waters once their contracts expire at the end of the current business year.

From the Redskins' perspective, whether any return depends on salary cap scenarios and perception of replacement options.

Washington has $15.5 million in salary cap space available for 2019 according to Spotrac.com, and a lengthy list of roster needs. Letting Crowder and Clinton-Dix escape creates more holes. The Redskins have a backup option at running back with Derrius Guice returning from injury.

The outside linebacker scenario falls somewhere in between, though no direct battle exists between Smith, a second-round in selection in 2015, and Anderson.

Smith, a three-year starter, played in 81 percent of all defensive snaps last season. He has not missed a game in four seasons.

His backup took the field on 16 percent of snaps last season. Injuries sidelined Anderson for five of 32 career games.

Smith’s four sacks in 2019 set a career-low, yet doubles Anderson’s overall total.   

Despite the limited sack total, Pro Football Focus rated Smith eighth among all NFL outside linebackers last season.

“I still think his future is very bright in the National Football League,” Gruden said.  “He is young, he is strong, he is long, he is smart. Obviously, from a production standpoint, he only had four sacks this year and that's low for a guy like that. But, I think he will get more and more the more he plays."

Anderson’s primary advantage is financial.

NFL.com considers the 26-year-old Smith the 17th best free agent this off-season, meaning a sizable pay raise in his future after concluding a four-year, $5.8 rookie contract.

Anderson, whose rookie contract extends through 2020, is on the books for a $1.7 million cap hit next season.

The Redskins do not need exemplary production from the burly 2017 second-round selection. Receiving a steady and forceful effort as a run stuffer and pocket-collapser works.

“Ryan Anderson has been in and out with the injuries, but he's done solid (work) with his assignments,” Gruden said.

An unwillingly participant in media sessions during his rookie season, Anderson turned engaging with reporters in Year 2. Chatting while seated in front of his locker at Redskins Park, he labeled his sophomore season “up and down,” but also recognized growth with his mental game.

“This year [the game] finally started to slow down for me. (Unlike) last year, everything wasn't a blur,” Anderson told NBC Sports Washington.

Washington often uses its outside linebackers to create a perimeter edge, forcing opposing ball carriers inside where teammates await. That is a good use of the powerful 253-pound Anderson.

Whether the Redskins use him as the 2019 starter is beyond his control.

“I’m just trying to get myself together so I’m in the best shape, so there’s no question about the position when I’m playing," the University of Alabama product said. “I don’t want to go out there and get the snaps I’ve been asking for and then I’m not producing.”

Anderson also plans on letting the assistant coach’s Legend-ary advice sink in.

“I’m a guy that doesn't even really listen to that kind of music,' Anderson said of Legend's soulful fare, "but at that the end of the day it makes sense.”

As does going with the flow until the Redskins sort out their off-season strategy at outside linebacker. 

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2019 NFL mock draft: Redskins roundup in the first round

2019 NFL mock draft: Redskins roundup in the first round

A quick reminder about gauging NFL mock drafts three months out before the actual fun in late April: Focus more on the position than the player.

<<GALLERY: 2019 NFL MOCK DRAFT 11.0>>

Public draft boards remain fluid and will remain in this flexible state for several weeks before hardening in early March after the Combine. Compared to pro scouts and front office personnel, outside analysts are always behind the curve. Opinions change once sources share internal projections and rumors spread.

There is also more time for homework on a concentrated batch rather than all of college football.

Alabama safety Deionte Thompson lived in the top 10 before the college football playoffs. Two games later, mock drafters dropped him into the 20’s after struggles against Oklahoma and Clemson. Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen, Oklahoma guard Cody Ford, Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner and Alabama running back Josh Jacobs are among the prospects positively trending.

Team needs, however, remain stable for weeks, outside of the rogue trade or contract extension. Clubs are not permitted to enter into contract negotiations with unrestricted free agents until March 11.

With the knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, study how many players at a position of interest are mocked with a general range of your team’s selection. This is more important for now than a specific prospect at a precise draft slot.

Now, it wouldn't be kosher to put entire mock drafts from other entities on our site (Click here for my latest full two-round mock draft).

Instead, here’s a sampling of what football thinkers are envisioning for the Redskins in the first round.

CBS and USA Today: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

We have a trade. CBS moves the Redskins to the Green Bay’s selection at 12, while USA Today jumps Washington all the way to nine via Buffalo. Both scenarios have Washington selecting a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback reared in the Big 12 Conference. Apologies for the Robert Griffin III flashbacks.

As discussed here, the Redskins may at least need to jump Denver at 10 and Miami at 13 for a passer, assuming Murray or Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins slip past the Giants (6) and Jaguars (7).

NFL.com: Malcolm Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Pro Football Focus: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Analyst Daniel Jeremiah states Brown, a true speed threat, makes for a “tempting” option assuming Washington sorts out its quarterback situation. PFF’s Steve Palazzolo writes Washington “needs to replenish their receiving corps and Arcega-Whiteside has one of the best combinations of body control and contested-catch skills in the draft.”

All fair points, but consider me a tad dubious about the Redskins going with a pass catcher at 15. The Redskins certainly need receiver help and more offensive playmakers overall. Adding a veteran ready to help meshes more with a coaching staff and perhaps front office likely putting more of a premium on immediate success after missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season. If slot target Jamison Crowder re-signs, that may eat up any remaining dollars directed for a receiver.

ESPN: Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida

Mel Kiper Jr. sends an edge rusher to Ashburn, specifically Florida’s Jachai Polite, who finished with 11 sacks this season. This need races to the top of Washington’s list should the team move on from free agent Preston Smith, and does not believe 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson can handle the gig.

SB Nation: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

“There are a number areas Washington could address with the No. 15 pick,” writes Dan Kadar. “Cornerback is one of them, and Murphy is pro-ready corner thanks to his instincts and ability to play the ball in the air.”

Again, fair points, and Murphy’s cover skills have some league voice considering him the draft’s top corner ahead of LSU’s Greedy Williams. However…

The Redskins could not really justify a corner in the first round if Josh Norman stays. Now, should they decide the high-priced defender provides more value as a salary cap casualty, then corner becomes a screaming need. It also looks like there will be a handful of corners potentially around on Day 2, including Clemson's Trayvon Mullen.

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