Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart now that the team’s offseason program has concluded.
Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Sept. 5.
So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …
Position: Right outside linebacker.
On the roster: Trent Murphy, Preston Smith, Trevardo Williams and Jackson Jeffcoat.
Likely to make the 53: Murphy, Smith and Williams.
Comment: Ryan Kerrigan is entrenched as the starting left outside linebacker, but with Brian Orakpo off to Tennessee, the Redskins must settle on a right-side starter.
Based on OTAs and minicamp, that key position battle will be waged between Murphy and Smith, the Redskins’ second round draft picks in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Murphy made eight starts last season as Orakpo’s injury replacement and showed incremental improvement, racking up a modest 2.5 sacks and 15 quarterback pressures, according to ProFootballFocus.com. As a result, he’s got a significant edge in experience. He’s also enjoyed a strong spring and has bulked up to 267 pounds after weighing 258 as a rookie.
Smith, meantime, began OTAs as a second stringer but progressed quickly and finished the offseason program working with the first team (as Kerrigan recovered from a knee scope). When the Redskins used the 38th overall pick to select him out of Mississippi State, the initial speculation was that he would eventually challenge Murphy for the starting spot across from Kerrigan. And nothing that's happened in recent weeks suggests anything has changed.
Battling for a job: Williams and Jeffcoat.
Comment: The battle for backup duty could also be a tight one, assuming Kerrigan, Murphy and Smith remain healthy. The Redskins kept four outside linebackers last season, and there’s no reason to believe that's going to change.
That, obviously, leaves Williams and Jeffcoat battling for a single opening. Jeffcoat had a more productive 2014 campaign, recording a sack and an interception in limited playing time. In OTAs, however, Williams worked ahead of him early on, getting some first time reps alongside Murphy while Smith got up to speed.
As far as backup battles go, this could be a good one.
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