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Need to Know: What happens to Trent Murphy if the Redskins draft an edge rusher?

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Need to Know: What happens to Trent Murphy if the Redskins draft an edge rusher?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 24, 37 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from Twitter:

https://twitter.com/stephen_binder/status/580022132010299393

There is plenty of talk that the Redskins will use the fifth overall pick in the draft on an edge rusher. Scot McCloughan has said that the Redskins will take the best player available on the board and if you believe the majority of the draft analysts out there the best player is likely to be an outside linebacker or a college defensive end who will be converted to an OLB. Some might prefer Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, others think that Vic Beasley of Clemson could be the man or perhaps it’s former Florida Gator Dante Fowler or Shane Ray from Mizzou.

But if the Redskins do take an edge defender, not matter who it is, it will affect the playing status of Trent Murphy. He was last year’s top draft pick, taken in the second round. If the Redskins take another edge rusher is he going to be banished to the bench?

The answer is a resounding no. Let me quote Colts GM Ryan Grigson from the NFL Combine, who was merely repeating what countless other GM’s have said through the years:
“I was always brought up with if you have 12 pass-rushers, give me 13. You can never have enough pass-rushers and that’s Scouting 101. The hard part is actually finding them and then finding ones that, the handful of them that are clean and really good.... If there’s a pass-rusher that gets your blood pumping in the draft, then you’re going to have to consider him, no matter where your needs are.”
Right now, the Redskins have three players who could be considered legitimate pass rushers—Murphy, Ryan Kerrigan, and Jason Hatcher. This is likely to be Hatcher’s last year in Washington so that brings it down to two, and Murphy is untested.

In any case, it’s far short of the 12 or 13 that Grigson covets. So the Redskins will have to find a role for Murphy (it’s safe to assume that the 2015 top draft pick would become the starter very early in the season if not immediately) if they do bring in another pass rusher.

He had a defined role last year when Brian Orakpo was healthy, lining up in nickel situations and on earlier downs in occasional relief of Orakpo. In the first six games of the season (Orakpo went out for the year during the seventh game) Murphy played 162 snaps out of 415, or about 39 percent. That’s a fairly substantial workload.

If the Redskins do draft a first-round edge rusher, Murphy’s role could be expanded beyond what he did with Orakpo in the lineup. A rookie outside linebacker would almost certainly be rotated out more often than the sixth-year veteran Orakpo was. And perhaps new defensive coordinator Joe Barry will find some additional situations for Murphy. It’s not out of the question that the could play at least a dozen more snaps per game than he did in the earlier stages of his rookie year. That would put him up around 60 percent of the snaps, a solid role for a second-round draft pick.

And then there is the “you never know” stuff. Injuries happen and Murphy could serve as valuable depth. Not to bring up the unthinkable for many Redskins fans but Ryan Kerrigan is playing on a one-year team option in his contract. Even though there is plenty of talk that an extension in the works, until that talk results in a signed piece of paper there is the possibility that he won’t be around in 2016. Murphy will then likely move into a starting role and the Redskins will be out in search of even more pass rushers.

In any case, Murphy will have a role as long as he remains healthy. It might not say “starter” next to his name but he will have plenty of snaps to try to get to the quarterback.

Timeline

—It’s been 86 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 173 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 27; 2015 NFL Draft 37; Redskins training camp starts 128

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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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