June 18, 2019

Washington Redskins 2015 Season Position Outlooks: Linebackers

The Washington Redskins linebacking core last year was mediocre at best. As fine of a year as Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan had with 13.5 sacks, the rest of the unit was pretty underwhelming. The Redskins got nothing out of oft-injured Brian Orakpo and rookie Trent Murphy who was rushed into a starting role that he was not ready for. This year with the addition of talented OLB Junior Galette and a much improved defensive line, the outlook is brighter.

If there is one thing that is a positive out of the linebacking core than probably no other unit on the team has is its youth. Adam Hayward, 31, is the only player projected to make the team that is over 27 years old. It starts with the probable starters Galette and Kerrigan, both 27, on the ends with Keenan Robinson, 26, and Perry Riley, 27, inside. Then the Redskins can fill in young developing role players in second round picks Trent Murphy, 24, and Preston Smith, 22, outside of Will Compton, 25, and Martell Spaight, 22, on the inside.

This is the way that a developing team works, having starters in the prime of their career with younger players getting ready to take over in the years to come. The current format also allows the Redskins to have fresh bodies at all times without missing a beat. Furthermore, they will not be paralyzed if someone goes down with an injury because of the depth they have across the unit.

With bookends of Galette and Kerrigan, two guys who have a combined 44 sacks over the last two seasons, you can expect opposing quarterbacks to have to step up in the pocket to avoid the corner rushes. If teams decide to double the outside rushes, you can expect big sack numbers from Jason Hatcher and Stephen Paea up the middle. In the end, it should be a win-win for the Redskins pass rush if everything goes to plan.

Inside, it is up to Robinson and Riley to shadow backs and tight ends in the passing game while filling gaps in the run game. They will likely reap the benefits of coming unblocked in the running game due to the improved defensive line, but will still have to react quickly to mismatches the other team took advantage repeatedly last year in the passing game. It will also be key for the duo to make sure all the plays are understood correctly by their teammates on a defense that could see up to 6 new starters Week 1. These fundamentals will have to be worked out during the remaining preseason games.

Thanks to the defensive line and addition of Galette, we should see an improvement from the linebackers this season that should lead to more competitive games.

Projected Week 1 Depth Chart:

  • SLB (Strong Side): Junior Galette, Trent Murphy
  • MLB (Mike): Keenan Robinson, Will Compton, Martell Spaight
  • MLB (Jack): Perry Riley, Adam Hayward
  • WLB (Weak Side): Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith

Washington Redskins: Analysis of Play of Rookies in Preseason Opener Win

Washington Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan stated prior to the 2015 NFL Draft that he would like to have 10 picks. McCloughan got his wish as the Redskins reached double digit selections.

Sixth round pick CB Tevin Mitchel is no longer on the team after he tore his labrum that will cost him his rookie season. The team hoped to have him clear waivers before placing him on IR but the Colts sniped him away.

WR Jamison Crowder did not play yesterday with a hamstring injury, while sixth round pick WR Evan Spencer seventh round pick C Austin Reiter played sparsely.

5th overall pick Brandon Scherff made his pro debut at right guard and did alright. There were no major coverage busts, which the former Hawkeye is somewhat insulated from at guard. At times Scherff was pushed back into the backfields, in one particular case Randy Starks (out of Maryland) won the battle. Scherff admitted that at guard he is learning to get his hands in quicker. Scherff appreciates the help from the other players and is still working to complete the trainsition not only to guard but also from college to pros where he admits the speed intensity is increased,

Second round pick Preston Smith saw a lot of playing time because the team was without Ryan Kerrigan and Junior Galette. The former Ole Miss pass rusher got his feet wet with a game high five tackles and a sack late in the game where he made a former seventh round pick in 2013 Michael Brown look foolish (see below). As long as Smith keeps this up, he will be a quality pass rusher in the rotation at outside linebacker and may be able to start in place of Galette come next season if the former Saint is not resigned.

Matt Jones is as advertised, a physical runner with underrated speed. The Florida product had runs of 23 and 12 yards that were highlighted by a spin move, speed to the outside, and impressive finishing of blocks. The rookie would come out of the game with a suspected concussion but quickly cleared the protocol. You can checkout how Jones’ night lines up with the rest of the Redskins backfield here.

Fourth round pick Arie Kouandjio has now been moved to the second reserve guard for the team behind Spencer Long once Scherff was moved to guard. It is a good think because the Alabama product is definitely not ready to start as he is still struggling against other backups. In the screen game, he was twice slow to block his man resulting in a total of 12 yards lost. Kouandjio is a big body to run behind but has to develop other tools to become a better player.

Martrell Spaight was the SEC’s leading tackler last year for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Along with Will Compton, Spaight hopes to backup the starting middle linebackers of Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley. The fifth round selection has nice form tackling and finished with 3 solo and 2 assist tackles. Spaight will likely earn a roster spot if he continues to play hard on special teams as we saw glimpses of yesterday when he stopped Shane Wynn in his tracks at the 14 yard line off of a kickoff.

Kyshoen Jarrett was drafted as a safety in the sixth round out of local Virigina Tech and was at times used at slot corner during practice because of his length and lack of bodies at the position. Because of this versatility, Jarrett could make the team. Last night he finished with just two tackles and a pass deflection with solid coverage in support of other reserve secondary players.

Evan Spencer was penciled in as some to be the sixth wide receiver on the roster prior to this game, but for some reason or another Spencer got very few reps even with the backups. In his lone target, the ball was thrown to far up field by Robert Griffin III on a third down attempt that could have been a result of Spencer running to shallow of a route, not beyond the sticks. Spencer has been noted to possibly help out on special teams, but in his one chance to make an impact he over pursed the returner who went on to return the kickoff 54 yards.

Austin Reiter was selected as a center out of the University of South Florida, possibly to provide a bit of depth behind starting center Kory Lichtensteiger. Reiter saw little playing time during the game and could not be thoroughly evaluated during his limited snaps late in the game. If Reiter were to make this football team, it will likely mean that the coaching staff feels more confident in his ability to backup Lichtensteiger than 2012 third rounder Josh LeRibeus.

The rookies performed well last night and the top four picks of Scherff, Smith, Jones, and Crowder should all be a big part of the Redskins team moving forward in the regular season.

Important Dates:

  • Training camps is officially ongoing and will last until Sunday, August 16th. See a full schedule of the Redskins training camp practices here.
  • Host the Detroit Lions for the second preseason game in 6 days on 8/20 at 7:30 PM.
  • The final cuts to a 53 man roster will take place over the next 22 days by 9/4.
  • Season and home opener against Miami Dolphins on Sunday, September 13 in 31 days.
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