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Redskins Position Outlook: Outside Linebacker has talent, more on the way, maybe

Redskins Position Outlook: Outside Linebacker has talent, more on the way, maybe

Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2017. We’re starting things off with a look at the running backs.

Outside Linebacker

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith

Backups: Trent Murphy, Lynden Trail

Injured/Reserve: Junior Galette, Houston Bates

Free agents: Junior Galette

Redskins Position Outlook: Running back | Defensive line

Rewind: Though the Washington defense struggled mightily in 2016, the outside linebackers performed relatively well. The team tied for ninth in the NFL with 38 sacks, with more than 60 percent of that production coming from the outside 'backers.

Ryan Kerrigan led the team with 11 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl. Kerrigan played through a litany of injuries and sealed an important December win with a strip/sack of Eagles QB Carson Wentz. While many expected a big year from second-year man Preston Smith, it was actually a breakthrough season for third-year pro Trent Murphy that stabilized the outside rush for the 'Skins. 

Murphy's eight sacks and particularly strong start to the season caught some by surprise and delivered on the promise he showed at Stanford. Smith actually regressed in Year 2 with five sacks, after a disruptive eight sack campaign as a rookie. 

For the second straight season, many Redskins fans were excited to see Junior Galette rush quarterbacks for the Burgundy and Gold. And for the second straight season, those fans were disappointed when Galette sustained an Achilles injury in the summer and was lost for the year. 

Fast forward: Looking ahead to next season it seems a relatively safe bet to again expect at least 20 sacks from the combination of Kerrigan/Murphy/Smith, but coaches should want much more. Smith needs to develop more pass rushing moves and not rely on athleticism as much, where Murphy's late season dip in production could be attributed to nagging injuries.

If Kerrigan continues his double-digit sack pace, and there's every reason to believe he will, and Murphy or Smith can break through to 10 or more sacks, then the Redskins pass rush would be one of the more potent in the league. A jump of five sacks or more from the trio seems quite doable, especially if Smith can return to his rookie form, and that would put the 'Skins D in the QB-terrorizing territory of Denver and Seattle.

And all of that is before we even mention Junior Galette, who posted to his Instagram account he has re-signed with the team.

Washington absolutely cannot count on Galette this fall. It's tough, but reality. After two straight lost seasons - granted to relatively fluky injuries - any production from Galette needs to be viewed as a bonus, not expected.

Keep in mind, however, his last two healthy seasons in 2013 and 2014 he posted 22 sacks for the Saints. Galette has elite speed off the edge that the trio of Kerrigan, Smith and Murphy don't possess. Or he at least had it before the injuries. The focus for Galette needs to be making it in uniform Week 1, not sack numbers.

Beyond those four, it's still entirely possible Scot McCloughan will draft an edge rusher. In the first round or the fourth round, the 2017 Draft is loaded with talent that could play outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. 

New defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is expected to be more aggressive than his predecessor Joe Barry, which could be helpful especially for a player like Smith. Another factor to consider is Murphy will be playing in a contract year.

While the 'Skins outside linebackers have proved capable of getting to the passer, the group routinely misses assignments in the run game and does a poor job of containing the edge. Maybe some of that is scheme, but the guys have to get better in that arena. 

A good unit in 2016, the Redskins outside linebackers have the potential to be great. Maybe Manusky will harness that.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Redskins officials fear that linebacker Reuben Foster has torn the ACL in his left knee, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, there is concern about a more significant injury that could include the artery in his left leg, sources said. 

Foster went down on his first snap in a non-contact drill during OTAs on Monday after stepping on the leg of guard Tyler Catalina. Immediately, Foster fell to the ground, and it was obvious he was in intense pain. He was audibly screaming and crying while writhing in pain on the field. 

Moments later, the Redskins medical staff rushed out to Foster, and within a matter of minutes, his leg was placed into a stabilizing device. He was then helped onto a cart and wheeled off the practice field. 

After practice, Jay Gruden said the team was unsure of Foster's prognosis but did say, "I’m just very disappointed in what happened in his first rep as a Redskin. He runs through the gap and gets injured."

The Redskins took a major public relations hit by signing Foster last fall, and the team's belief was that his play on the field would be worth the controversy that enveloped his signing. Foster won't be playing in 2019, but remains under contract for 2020, and Washington will have the option to keep him in 2021. 

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