The busy portion of free agency is completed. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview. The 90-man offseason roster is full, as well. Now comes the difficult part for second-year head coach Jay Gruden: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going examine the top items on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the Redskins for training camp in Richmond later this summer.
Up today …
Outside linebacker to-do list
Tandler: Ryan Kerrigan’s knee situation isn’t good news by any stretch but the timing is right. The smart move might be to hold him out of OTAs completely out of an abundance of caution. The veteran can likely get ready for training camp without OTAs and his absence will give Trent Murphy and Preston Smith some more reps and will give Jackson Jeffcoat and Trevardo Williams a good chance to fight it out for the backup job at this position. The group will be working closely with new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who will essentially double as the outside linebackers coach. The Redskins will now have one first-round pick in Kerrigan and two second-rounders in Smith and Murphy at outside linebacker. The expectation will be for the defense to get considerably more than the 36 sacks they got last year (tied for 21st in the league) and the outside linebackers to lead the way.
El-Bashir: The Redskins’ priority at this position over the next few weeks is to make sure Kerrigan is 100-percent—even if he sits out all three OTA sessions. Sure, he’d be missing important work as Barry installs a new system, but Kerrigan suffering a setback would be a worst-case scenario for this unit. The second item to check off the list is determining whether Murphy has improved enough to hold down the starting job opposite Kerrigan. Murphy has bulked up, from I’ve heard, and he’s got eight NFL starts under his belt. But something tells me Smith isn’t going to simply hand him the job, despite his inexperience. That’s going to be a battle to watch. And finally, like with all position groups, the coaches need to get a good feel for the reserves—an issue underscored by Kerrigan’s unexpected surgery. Right now, Jeffcoat and Williams would appear to be in the lead. Will they be pushed by college free agents such as Dasman McCullum and Houston Bates? Perhaps. But my gut tells me Kerrigan, Murphy, Smith and Jeffcoat, who showed a lot of promise in limited snaps late last season, are going to be the Redskins’ top four outside linebackers next season. Would they keep five? That’s probably the best hope for the others.