With training camp set to begin next month, Redskins.com previews the current state of the Redskins' roster, continuing today with the team's outside linebackers.
The Washington Redskins will enter Richmond with relatively the same group of outside linebackers as last season but for the addition of rookie Ryan Anderson and free agent linebacker Chris Carter. They will also hope for the return of Junior Galette, who has torn his Achilles the past two seasons and didn't participate in training camp last year.
ROSTER SUBTRACTION(S):- N/A
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
The Redskins were dealt a blow last offseason when they found out Junior Galette would be lost for the second straight season with a torn Achilles heel, sustained prior to training camp. Without him, the team's depth was tested, seeing contributors step up while also regressing a bit as a group.
The main spark came primarily from Trent Murphy, who totaled a career-high nine sacks on 47 tackles, becoming an unlikely pass rushing force for a defense that struggled to put out consistent pressure under second-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
Ryan Kerrigan offered 11 sacks, leading the team in that category, but on the opposite side, Preston Smith had trouble building off the success of his rookie year, acquiring just 4.5 sacks on 38 tackles, though coming up big with his first career interception in a victory over the Vikings.
A new face to the unit this season will be rookie Ryan Anderson, who was taken out of the second round from Alabama.
In his four years playing for the Crimson Tide, he recorded 128 tackles with 19 sacks, six fumbles forced, six fumbles recovered, three passes defensed and an interception. During his senior season in 2016, Anderson earned first-team All-SEC honors, as he collected 61 tackles with nine sacks, four fumbles forced and three fumble recoveries.
The 6-foot-2, 253 pounder is still adjusting to the speed of the NFL level, but hopes to add some more playmaking spark to a group that will likely see more blitz opportunities and explosiveness off the edge with new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
The potential return of a fully healthy Junior Galette is also an exciting prospect and could help provide even more depth at the position, giving breaks to Kerrigan and Smith. There is hope that Galette can return to his previous self, but the last time he played was 2014 with the New Orleans Saints.
The group will be shorthanded for the first four games of the season, as Trent Murphy was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Meanwhile, Houston Bates will look to contribute in various spots after serving a small role last season after mostly playing with the special teams unit in 2016. He tore his ACL last December against the Panthers and has been rehabbing the entire offseason to gain strength back in his knee and quad.
The only free agent addition in the offseason for the group came with Chris Carter. The six-year veteran played in nine games with the Colts last season and made six tackles after short stints with the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers. The team also returns Lynden Trail, who bounced around the practice squad and then the active roster at the very end of the season.
WHAT TO WATCH:
The biggest question mark of the unit remains Junior Galette, who the Redskins hope will first make it to Richmond in good health, something he didn't do last year. Despite the two-year gap in playing time, Galette is confident he can return to the same level, or even be better, than the last time he played in games with the Saints.
"I think I'm going to be better than what I was," Galette said. "Honestly, if I didn't feel like that, I wouldn't even come back. I don't want to come back the way I was, I want to be better than what I was you know? So it's just the level of confidence that I have in myself in overcoming a lot of obstacles in life that took me here and molded me into this person I am today with extreme confidence and I feel like I do have what it takes. I don't want to be thirty five-year-old and looking back and say 'Hey why did I retire at you know twenty-eight, twenty-nine years old?' Why not give it a little more shot?"
The Redskins will make sure Galette doesn't push himself too hard in August, making sure to keep an eye on his exertion, but it should be interesting to watch how he is worked into the fold between Kerrigan, Smith and Murphy.
Throughout OTAs and minicamp, Galette has mostly worked with the second-team units, a sign that he may be used on specific passing downs, when the Redskins can fully utilize his pass-rushing ability.
Anderson should be another player to watch develop as he gets adjusted to playing in the NFL. He will likely be competing for a backup role to play alongside of Murphy, Trail, Bates (if he's heathy enough to fully participate in camp) and Carter.
"He brings an attitude to this football team," Gruden said of Anderson. "Having a chance to talk to him in Tuscaloosa, I spent a lot of time with him watching him play. Talking to a couple of his teammates – obviously we drafted one yesterday – nothing but high praise for him, not only on the field, but his leadership and his tenacity to get after people to play hard, play physical, [and] bring a style of play here that we've been looking for."
There is a lot of potential for this group and should be some good battles to help fill out the pecking order beneath Ryan Kerrigan, who continues to be the anchor on the edge. If Smith can provide increased production throughout camp, Gruden will have a challenging time determining who makes the final cut in a talented group.
"I was looking at the board the other day and I'm trying to figure out if we keep four. There's a lot of guys there," Gruden said. "We're hoping Junior Galette comes off of his injuries. Obviously, Preston is continuing to develop as a young football player. Trent is going to miss the first four, but we feel like he's a mainstay here in the outside backer room. Chris Carter is excellent on special teams and can rush a little bit, and obviously, Houston Bates coming off his injury. The list goes on and on so we have some depth there, which is very nice. Then we drafted Ryan Anderson, who I have a lot of respect for his game at Alabama and what he's already brought in a couple of days."
REDSKINS IN RICHMOND: