The Washington Redskins entered the 2017 offseason with one main objective, fix the defense that has routinely finished near the bottom of the league in yards and points given up. In the process, the team added several players to the defensive line, linebacker, and secondary positions. The Redskins were under the impression that the most competition they would see at linebacker, would be at the inside position. Now after outside linebacker Trent Murphy has officially been suspended for the first four games of 2017, due to a violation of the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs policy, the outside position opposite Ryan Kerrigan is very much in play if someone were to step up.
Murphy is playing in the last year of his rookie deal, and despite registering nine sacks in 2016, he’s still got a lot to prove if he wants a new, long-term deal with Washington.
“Really the people who are closest with you and know your character, know where you come from, they’ll always be by your side,” Murphy recently said. “My team has rallied around me and been very supportive. Just gonna do the best I can to recover from this. The only way I could move on was to just get back to work and keep my head down and keep grinding. It’s disappointing. It doesn’t reflect who I am as a player.”
As it turns out, Murphy could not have picked a worse time to get suspended in terms of position security and team depth. The Redskins have third-year edge-rusher Preston Smith right behind Murphy ready to break out if given the chance. Not to mention the franchise has newly drafted Ryan Anderson out of Alabama, and Junior Galette, a player many may have written off, but whose “twitch” and first move off the line of scrimmage is unmatched in the entire league — when he’s healthy. Murphy’s suspension hurts the Redskins’ depth situation after the team had visions of multiple options during free agency.
That spells trouble for Murphy, who will participate in all of the Redskins’ offseason programs and preseason, but must sit out the first four contests of the regular season and will not be allowed to practice or be at the team’s facility. Murphy would then be eligible to return in Week 5, but since Washington has a bye that week, Murphy won’t return until Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers.
With Murphy shelved, his starting role will shift to the player who shines the brightest in training camp/preseason. Preston Smith looks to be the heir-apparent, but he himself must bounce back from what most would consider a sophomore slump after a promising end to his rookie year. Anderson looks like he could be the exact player the ‘Skins have been searching for, but can he really be NFL ready by Week 1?
There is a lot to be learned by a rookie linebacker coming into a new scheme with a new defensive coordinator to boot. It seems the odds are likely stacked against Anderson winning the spot. Galette has looked good so far this spring, but he hasn’t taken a snap in burgundy and gold in the two years he’s been under contract, not even in the preseason, so it’s hard to depend on any production out of him until he proves his health is not an issue moving forward.
Murphy’s suspension has put Washington in a tight spot with a young roster looking for leaders to step up and emerge. Murphy must now deal with the reality that if another player does step up in his absence, his future in Washington could come to an end following the season. With his future no longer in his own hands, Murphy has to now hope for the best and be ready if the position is there for him when he returns to the lineup.
[Featured Image by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images]