Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take another position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2016 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others are have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. This much, however, is not in question: A player is not on the 53-man roster until it's finalized in early September. So who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Outside linebacker.
On the roster: Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette, Preston Smith, Houston Bates, Shiro Davis, Ejiro Ederaine, Willie Jefferson, Lyden Trail and Mike Wakefield.
Likely to make the 53: Kerrigan, Galette, Smith and Bates.
When training camp begins a month from today, the big storyline at outside linebacker will be the health of Galette, who has promised to be patient as he works his way back from the Achilles injury that sidelined him in 2015. The 28-year-old was withheld from all OTA and minicamp practices, though he rehabbed (quite explosively) off to the side.
"Obviously, I’m really excited to get back," Galette told CSN earlier this month. "But I think that was the problem last year—I just tried to overcompensate after being released [by the Saints] for the first time in my life. So, I think this year I’m going to be more patient and ease into it, and just take my time because I know the damage I can do in this league."
Galette added: "And, obviously, we have the best defense I’ve ever been on—on paper—and I feel like they don’t really need me to jump in and be a superhero."
Galette added that he intends to spend the weeks leading up to camp working out in South Florida with Pierre Garcon and in Houston with Trent Williams.
Assuming Galette does return to full health, as expected, he’ll be one-third of a potentially prolific corps of pass rushers. Indeed, Galette, Kerrigan and Smith all possess double-digit sack talent and it's going to be interesting to monitor in Richmond how defensive coordinator Joe Barry deploys the trio.
Battling for a job: Bates, Davis, Ederaine, Jefferson, Trail and Wakefield.
The first three are easy. Competition for the fourth job? Well, that could get interesting with a handful of unproven youngsters vying for the role.
Bates filled the role as a rookie last season. Although he was used sparingly on defense, the undrafted Louisiana Tech product was effective on special teams. Bates also enjoyed a solid spring and, on occassion, stood out in drills. But will he be able to hold off a training camp challenge from the others? That remains to be seen. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m curious to track the progress of Jefferson, who notched a combined 10 sacks with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos the past two seasons, and Trail, who possesses eye-popping size at 6 foot 7, 270 pounds.
All that said, we already know this much: with Kerrigan, Galette and Smith eating up the majority of the snaps at this position, the determining factor, as it is at most backup positions, will be special teams performance. And because of that, this battle might come down to the wire.