Closer Look At The Washington Redskins Options At Linebacker In 2017
The Washington Redskins entered this offseason with one major goal at hand, improve their defense. The Redskins have been at or near the bottom of the league the past few seasons in terms of yards and point given up. In 2017 they were one of the worst teams on third downs in the entire history of the National Football League giving up first downs 46.63 percent of the time, in contrast, the best team in the league last year on defensive third downs was Tampa Bay, with a 34.36 percentage.
A lot of the focus was on the defensive line this offseason as the team turned the front line over a bit adding Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen. The team didn’t stop there in the draft as they went on to add Alabama linebacker, Ryan Anderson. Anderson is going to push Preston Smith and Trent Murphy for playing time early and often in his young career. Murphy should especially be feeling the heat as he will start the season off with a four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s rules as they pertain to performance enhancing drugs.
The team also added former Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl inside linebacker Zach Brown on a one-year deal. Brown is immediately the Redskins best middle linebacker and will join Will Compton, Mason Foster, and Martrell Spaight at inside with rookie Josh Harvey-Clemons playing dime/nickel linebacker.
At outside linebacker, Washington has Ryan Anderson, Houston Bates, Chris Carter, Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Pete Robertson, Preston Smith, Lynden Trail, Nico Marley, and Zach Vigil on the current 90-man roster. The two names everyone should circle from the list are Kerrigan and Anderson. Those two will see the most chances on the edge with the improved Redskins defensive line to be able to make a major difference. If he can stay healthy, it will be interesting to see just what Junior Galette brings to the table at linebacker after missing the last two seasons with alternating Achilles tendon injuries. Before the injuries, he had 22 sacks in 28 starts over two seasons. Galette’s burst off the ball and speed on his first step off the edge are unmatched on the Redskins roster and quite frankly, the entire league.
With the addition of Brown, last year’s starting inside linebackers Will Compton and Mason Foster could both see less playing time as the team settles into what will be a new defensive scheme under new coordinator Greg Manusky. Manusky was a linebacker when he played in Washington and is looking to bring the nasty side of being a linebacker back to the Redskins with more intensity. For the Redskins to move on to the next level they will need a linebacker not named Ryan Kerrigan to step up and perform. The team, of course, has been hoping for a couple of years now that Preston Smith would get the hint and run with it. Last year Trent Murphy nearly out-sacked Kerrigan despite having to move back to outside linebacker, a spot that never truly fit him and it’s quite possible weight gain is to blame for Murphy’s failed test’s a few months back (weight gain then loss…followed by the same thing over and over).
The Redskins made the moves they needed to improve their defense this offseason by simply not moving up or down in the draft or overpaying in free agency, but by letting players who they are targeting fall to them. That’s the new Redskins draft philosophy, pick the best player available and never tell anyone who you initially wanted to pick the first time.
[Featured Image by Norm Hall/Getty Images]