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Need to Know: Will the Redskins' Preston Smith start at OLB?

preston-smith-minicamp.png

Need to Know: Will the Redskins' Preston Smith start at OLB?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 26, 34 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

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.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today’s question is from Twitter:

The short answer is that it’s not very likely. But the other answer is that it doesn’t really matter.

If I had $100 in casino chips to bet on who will be lined up at right outside linebacker for the first snap against the Dolphins, I would put $95 on Trent Murphy, last year’s second-round pick, and the other $5 on Preston Smith, this year’s second rounder.

Why? Murphy has eight NFL starts and 595 NFL snaps under his best while Smith has none of either. During OTAs and minicamp this year, Murphy has done nothing that would warrant him losing his starting job. He has gotten bigger and, presumably, stronger and he during OTAs and minicamp he seemed to be more comfortable and confident in his second season of lining up at linebacker (he was an end at Stanford).

Meanwhile, Smith has look liked someone who has a lot to learn. And that is exactly what you should expect from a rookie second-round pick who is just starting the process of converting from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker. He has the physical tools needed to be successful but, as I noted in this post from last week, it will take him some time to get up to speed.

But here’s why who starts doesn’t really matter a whole lot. If you are the second-team right guard, you don’t play unless someone gets injured. Backup quarterbacks wait around until there is a five-alarm emergency of some sort. As a backup OLB, Smith will play a substantial number of snaps.

Last year Murphy did not start the first six games of the season; he was behind Brian Orakpo on the depth chart. But he still played about 30 snaps per game on defense, rotating in with some packages including some where he lined up as a lineman with his hand in the dirt. He relieved Orakpo, played alongside him in nickel situations, and occasionally relieved Ryan Kerrigan (although he takes off very few snaps).

Smith is likely to have a similar role this year. His length will help him in the trenches and he will be able to learn how to pass rush from both a two-point stance and from a down position.

And we’ll see what happens from there. My $100 bet discussed above is only in play for the opener. If Smith catches on quickly and proves to be a better option than Murphy he could be starting and Murphy could be the one coming off of the bench.

The real competition for the starting job could come in 2016 after Smith has a season under his belt. Although we have a long way to go, Smith's realistic chance at getting a starting job starts next year.

Timeline

—It’s been 180 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 79 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 34; Preseason opener @ Browns 48; final cuts 71

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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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!