With training camp set to begin later this month, Redskins.com previews the current state of the Redskins' roster, continuing today with the team's outside linebackers.
The Washington Redskins will venture down to the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center later this month with eight outside linebackers who want to induce panic with their pass rush.
Veteran linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is the leader of the outside linebacker group. Preston Smith enters his second year and the man he replaced, Junior Galette, is almost fully recovered from his achilles injury. Houston Bates returns, and the team signed CFL Champion Willie Jefferson as well as undrafted free agents Ejiro Ederaine, Mike Wakefield and Lynden Trail.
ROSTER SUBTRACTION(S):- Jackson Jeffcoat (Free Agent, signed with Cleveland)
KEY ADDITION(S):- Willie Jefferson (Free Agent, signed from CFL)
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
Before the Redskins head to Richmond for training camp, check out who all is on the roster position-by-position. Today, it is the outside linebackers
With Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette and Preston Smith, the outside linebacking group boasts three top tier pass rushers that should cause nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.
Kerrigan led the way on defense last season, recording 9.5 sacks while flashing the best sack dance on the team. The improved pass rush should make it easier for Josh Norman and co. to make plays in the secondary.
"If (Galette) and I are both healthy and if him and I are both playing at our best and then you add a guy like Preston in there too, we should make things a lot easier for the guys in our backend," Kerrigan said. "And you can't forget about Chris Baker and the guys inside who had a great season rushing the passer last year."
Galette will be making his much anticipated return to the field after he tore his achilles tendon during training camp last year. Galette, who recorded 22 sacks in his last two seasons with the Saints before signing with the Redskins, is anxious to re-establish his reputation as an elite pass rusher.
"I feel like [swagger] is what I'm going to bring when I come back, you know, the intensity," Galette said. "I'm going to try and take it up to a whole 'nother notch and join along with what they've been doing, but try to do my best to be one of the top tier players not only on this defense, but in the league."
When Galette went down before the season, Smith rose to the occasion as the next man up. The rookie posted eight sacks and three forced fumbles, and as the season went on he showcased the talent and productivity of a future star.
"I think there's two different types of rushers, ones that are athletic and really get after them like a Von Miller and ones that are slippery and ones that use power," Outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky said. "I think Preston does a great job of having that slipperiness to him, you know where he's long armed and can get his hands on those defenders and makes sure he swats them away and he does a great job of forcing the element to the quarterback and making some plays."
Willie Jefferson and Houston Bates, who both went undrafted, lack the star pedigree of their position mates. Jefferson spent the last two seasons playing for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, where he won a championship in 2015 before signing with the Redskins in January.
Bates went from the practice squad to the 53-man roster last season by impressing coaches with his work ethic and making an impact on special teams.
"I actually feel a little bit more obligated to work harder and I think that's what I've done," Bates said. "I've been given the opportunity to play special teams, and I'll do that to the best of my abilities so I want to solidify a spot and work hard to stay there."
WHAT TO WATCH:
Redskins fans have been waiting for two nearly years to see Galette's impact on the pass rush. Galette, flashing the explosiveness that made him a disruptive force for the Saints, will likely cause a ripple effect for the entire defense in training camp.
Another factor to keep an eye on is the continued development of Smith. His length, combined with Galette's speed, could give the Redskins a devastating pass rush combination.
Bates will continue to lead by example on special teams and compete for a roster spot along with Jefferson, Ejiro Ederaine, Lynden Trail and Mike Wakefield. Those who do not make the roster will be competing to make the practice squad.