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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Outside linebacker

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Outside linebacker

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

We started with the defensive line and then looked at the inside linebackers.  Today the focus turns to the outside linebackers.

2016 final game starters: Preston Smith, Ryan Kerrigan

Smith and Kerrigan both started all 16 games. Kerrigan has now started all 96 games since he was drafted in 2011.   

Departures: None

Projected 2017 starters: Smith, Kerrigan

Kerrigan’s presence is a given. He has four years left on the five-years extension he signed in 2015. Kerrigan made his second Pro Bowl last year with 11 sacks, the second-best total of his career.   

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 7.0

Smith was a model of inconsistency. He was dominant against the Vikings, recording two sacks and getting his first career interception to stop a key Minnesota drive, and against the Bears he blocked a field goal attempt and got a sack. During other games, you rarely heard his name called. He had zero or one tackles in nine games.

2017 reserves: Trent Murphy, Junior Galette, Houston Bates, Lynden Trail

Murphy played about 100 fewer snaps than Smith last year but he had more sacks, QB hits, and hurries. He is likely to miss the first four games of the season due to a PED suspension but an appeal is still pending.

Galette is the wild card in the bunch. He could get double-digit sacks, like he did with the Saints in 2013 and 2014, or he could miss the whole season, like he did the last two years.

MORE REDSKINS: The best picks at No. 17

Trail is huge, 6-7, 270, but still very green. He could benefit from another season on the practice squad although another team could be tempted to sign him away. Bates played just 24 snaps on defense but he was valuable on special teams and he lined up at fullback on occasion as well.

Where can the outside LB’s find improvement?

The Redskins have five picks in the first four rounds and there is a good chance they go with an edge player with one of those picks. The draft has some depth at the position and they could get some immediate production out of someone taken in the third or fourth rounds.

Smith has the highest potential for improvement from within. Even though Greg Manusky have moved up from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator he certainly will continue to push Smith as he enters his important third season. And he will no doubt get some tips from respected defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as Smith often will line up in a four-point stance.

As noted, Galette could be a Pro Bowl candidate or he could be totally unproductive. The Redskins probably would be happy with something in between, a half dozen sacks or so.

Locks and bubble players

Kerrigan, Smith, and Galette are locks for the initial 53-man roster. Assuming Murphy’s suspension appeal fails he won’t be on the roster until Week 5.

That would give Trail, Bates, and possibly a draft pick an opening. The Redskins usually keep four but they could go with five if they get someone in the draft. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins coaches appreciate Niles Paul. Not just for the immense physical skills, a 6-foot-1, 225 lb. college receiver turned NFL tight end and fullback. He works hard every day at practice, and demands the same from his teammates. 

Last season, Paul landed on the injured reserve after an injury in London during a Week 8 tie against the Bengals. Because of that, some speculation emerged that Paul could be the odd man out in the Redskins tight end group, behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis and fighting with 2017 draft pick Jeremy Sprinkle, not to mention veteran Derek Carrier. 

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS MAKE RUN AT NICK MANGOLD?

After two preseason games, it's clear Paul is ready to fight for that spot. Against Green Bay on Saturday night, Paul logged a touchdown catch and a fumble recovery on special teams, showing the versatility that makes him so valuable to Washington. 

For Paul, he's just happy to be back on the field. 

"I got my season cut in half last year. I just want to be back on the field by any means necessary. I've just been missing it. I've been missing football in my life," Paul said after the game (full video above).

Paul's acrobatic TD grab showed that he still has the explosiveness to help the offense, but his special teams play is what will keep him on the roster. It also helps that head coach Jay Gruden complimented Paul for an outstanding camp and work ethic. 

"His speed looks where it was before the injuries. I mean, I think he's had an outstanding training camp so far. He's done so many different things. And that's one of the toughest positions," Gruden said of Paul. 

The Redskins offense hasn't hit full cylinder yet, but Paul thinks the return of Jordan Reed will help. 

"We're missing a major piece and that's Jordan Reed," he said. "We got some fine tuning to do."

Considering Reed's injury history, and backup tight end Vernon Davis starting the season at 33, a healthy Paul is a luxury for the Redskins. He stands to make nearly $2.5 million this season, but he also brings versatility. Paul is happy to play fullback, a role that seems to be growing, as well as all over the field on special teams. 

Washington will absolutely keep Reed and Davis. With his play this preseason, Paul seems a sure thing too. And if the squad wants to keep their draft pick in Sprinkle, who has tremendous size and has shown promise, four tight ends on the 53-man roster looks like the future. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

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USA Today Sports

With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

News broke late Monday night that Redskins' center Spencer Long underwent a minor knee scope and is expected to miss two weeks. That timetable spells good news for Washington, as that would bring Long back to the team before the first regular season game against the Eagles on September 10th. 

In the meantime, expect rookie Chase Roullier to take over at center for the Redskins. A 6th round draft pick, Bruce Allen and the Washington brass moved up to select Roullier, and the young player out of Wyoming had a strong training camp. 

RELATED: NILES PAUL FORCING HIS WAY TO A ROSTER SPOT?

"He’s done a great job, he really has. For a rookie to come in here and handle all the things he has to handle, it’s been very impressive," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Roullier in early August. 

Still, Jay Gruden has been very clear about the need for a backup center on the roster. Last season the team brought in veteran John Sullivan during the year to provide depth at the position after Kory Lichtensteiger went down with injury.  Sullivan ended up starting one game for Washington, and is now playing with the Rams. 

With Long on the mend, the only other center on the Redskins roster is Roullier. Ronald Patrick is listed with the more generic OL designation though he has played center too.

It seems likely the team will move quickly to add another center, and one name that will get suggested is Nick Mangold. An 11-year veteran that played his entire career with the Jets, Mangold has more experience than Long, Roullier and Patrick combined.

He's also played the position at a very high level. Twice named to the NFL's All Pro team, Mangold has made seven Pro Bowls, most recently in 2015.

It's not entirely clear why Mangold isn't on an NFL roster already. He worked out for the Ravens this offseason, though some reports suggested Mangold wanted more guaranteed money than was discussed. 

A quick look at his Twitter feed does not suggest a guy missing the NFL life. A big soccer fan, Mangold seems very dialed in to London's Tottenham Hotspur and the New York City Football Club. (Check his Twitter out here)

If the team truly believes Long should not miss any regular season action, Mangold is probably not a fit. At 33-years-old with an impressive resume, Mangold likely doesn't want to come back just to be a backup, and Gruden has repeatedly talked about Long's ability and potential in the middle of the line. Should Long suffer a setback, the equation could change. 

Other names are likely to pop up for tryouts, as the 'Skins must consider more interior line depth. Making a run at Mangold might be something fans want to do, though it might not make sense at this point.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!