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Looking ahead: Predicting the Redskins' 2016 depth chart

Looking ahead: Predicting the Redskins' 2016 depth chart

During the Redskins’ bye week we’re taking a look ahead at the 2016 version of the Redskins. We’ve looked at the pending free agents and at the salary cap and what adjustments can be made. Now it’s time to take out the crystal ball and see what the depth chart will look like when they line up next September.

(Starter changes from 2015 are in bold)

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
Backups: Colt McCoy, draft pick

Sure, things can go south in the next nine games but right now the best bet is that Cousins remains the starting quarterback. I think they have to draft a quarterback; the only question is if they take one on Friday (rounds 2-3) or Saturday (rounds 4-7).

Running backs: Matt Jones
Backups: Chris Thompson, free agent, draft pick

When all is said and done, I think that Alfred Morris ends up leaving town and signing with a team that is more committed to the zone-blocking scheme. It also looks like Darrel Young could be headed out and the team will operate without a fullback. Assuming Jones can refine his rushing technique over the last nine games, he inherits the “lead dog” mantle. Thompson is a solid third-down back. Look for them to add a bargain veteran free agent and/or a Saturday draft pick to the mix.

Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon, first-round draft pick
Backups: Jamison Crowder (slot receiver), Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross

Yeah, I’ve spent the top draft pick already. With DeSean Jackson gone since he doesn’t fit into what Scot McCloughan is looking for in a veteran player, they need a big threat at wide receiver. To take a preliminary stab at it six months out, I’ll go with 6-2 Laquon Treadwell out of Ole Miss. Unlike Jackson, Garçon has the work ethic that McCloughan wants to keep around as an example to younger players. Crowder is the slot receiver for the foreseeable future.

Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Niles Paul, Derek Carrier

The only good thing about the ankle injury that Paul suffered is that it was in the preseason opener, so he will have plenty of time to rehab. Reed will be going into his contract year and staying healthy will be of paramount importance for both him and for the team.

Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, 1-2 draft picks

I’m not 100 percent sure that Long can be an NFL starting center but he is probably the most immediate replacement for Kory Lichtensteiger, who would be better off in a zone scheme. The rest of the group can stay intact and continue to gel.

Defensive line: Trent Murphy, Terrance Knighton, Chris Baker
Backups: Ricky Jean Francois, Stephen Paea, Frank Kearse

The unit gets a needed injection of youth with Murphy packing on a few more pounds and converting to end. Knighton re-signs for two or three years.

Linebackers: OLBs Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan; ILBs Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson
Backups: Preston Smith, Will Compton, Jackson Jeffcoat, Houston Bates

I’m not sure what to think of Riley’s future. He has a year left on his contract and his stock still seems to be pretty high within the organization. But Will Compton does a good job when he fills in and there could be a replacement in the draft or in free agency. Joe Barry will work to design ways to get Smith, Kerrigan, and Galette (who I think returns on an incentive-loaded deal) into the game at the same time.

Defensive backs: CBs Bashaud Breeland, Chris Culliver; SS Kyshoen Jarrett, FS Dashon Goldson
Backups: Trenton Robinson, Jeron Johnson, Quinton Dunbar, 2-3 draft picks/free agents

The starting corners are an easy call while the rest of the picture is murky. Goldson likely would have to agree to a renegotiated contract that would considerably lower his $8 million 2016 salary. If he doesn’t, I don’t see him staying but that leaves a hole at free safety that could perhaps be filled in the free agent market. Do things click for Jeron Johnson, allowing him to play a regular role? Does Jarrett return to safety, the position he was drafted to play? Or do they keep a good thing going and leave him in the slot? Do rookie free agents Dunbar and Deshazor Everett show enough promise that the team will bypass a late-round project in the draft?

Specialists: K Dustin Hopkins, LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way

Hopkins came out of nowhere to become the best kicker in recent memory, although we’re looking at a small sample size. Way is getting better at refining his craft and could have some Pro Bowls in his future.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

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.