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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 draft countdown: Can Temple's Haason Reddick make the move from end to LB?

Redskins draft countdown: Can Temple's Haason Reddick make the move from end to LB?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 34 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

Haason Reddick

Inside linebacker
Temple

Height: 6-1
Weight: 237
40-yard dash: 4.52

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Explosive, quick-twitch athlete. Great flexibility with loose hips to turn, twist, and chase. Excellent reactive quickness and change-of-direction agility. Dynamic playmaker in space. Locks onto targets and instantly accelerates to the ball. Finished 2016 regular season with 21.5 tackles for loss. Fluid mover around field. Has chase range over extended territory.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have devoted major resources to the edges of their defense with free agent dollars and high draft picks going to get Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Josh Norman. But the middle—nose tackle, inside linebacker, and safety—remains shaky at best. Reddick could give them an immediate boost in the core of the defense.

At 185 pounds, he walked on at Temple as a safety, bulked up and finished as a two-year starter. Reddick played defensive end and dominated in many games, recording 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss. But he doesn’t have the bulk to compete on the edge in the NFL so he will be either an outside linebacker in a 4-3 or an inside backer in a 3-4. The Redskins would have him on the inside in base defense and could have him roam when the go to a four-man line.

Film review: vs. Cincinnati, vs. USF

Reddick played on both sides of the line in two- and three-point stance. He seemed to be more effective standing up; he lacked the size to tangle with the Cincinnati and USF offensive tackles.

He seemed to be a bit slow in recognition. There were times where he reacted after the play already was by him.

Reddick wasn’t asked to cover often but he can drop back and cover a zone. I did not see any man coverage. His backpedal will need work.

He showed good hustle and pursuit, got in on a few plays when lined up on the right side and play went wide to the left.

Against USF he played off the line of scrimmage on about 30 percent of the snaps. He didn’t do anything notable good or bad from there but it was a small sample size.

The bottom line is that it’s hard to see how well he could play at inside linebacker based on the tape. It will take a lot of projection by the scouts, something that I will readily admit is beyond the scope of my capabilities.

Potential issues: After playing defensive end at Temple, Reddick needs to adjust to playing on two feet. Inside linebacker in a 3-4 is a complex position to master and there could be a substantial learning curve involved.

There is a little bit of off-field trouble in his past. He was suspended from the program for three months in 2015 following an off-campus fight but assault charges were later dropped. That appears to be a blip on the radar with no issues reported before or since.

Bottom line: Reddick certainly has great athleticism. Among defensive linemen and linebackers who tested at the combine, Reddick had the best performances in the 40 (4.52 seconds) and in the broad jump (11 feet, 1 inch). It seems that he has the potential to be a good linebacker. And with Will Compton and Mason Foster in place now, Reddick could get some time to develop in Washington.

However, the Redskins defense needs some instant impact. If they want an inside linebacker they might prefer to go with one who is better prepared to contribute now like Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt or, if he’s available, Reuben Foster of Alabama.

Jay Gruden has expressed frustration about the lack of impact he has been able to get from the team’s last two first-round picks. He could be complaining about a third if Reddick is the pick.

However, if other teams decide to pass on Reddick and he is available in the second round (which seems unlikely after his combine performance but in the draft you never know), the Redskins should give him a hard look.

In his own words:

Reddick on changing from defensive end to playing in space as a linebacker:

I feel really comfortable. At the end of the day, I’m a competitor. That’s what I like to do. That’s what I do. There’s no question about that. It doesn’t matter who they put in front of me, or what they ask me to do. I’m just going to try to do it as best as I can. That’s the approach I took at Senior Bowl.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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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Need to Know: Examining the Redskins' roster locks and bubble dwellers

Need to Know: Examining the Redskins' roster locks and bubble dwellers

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 24, 34 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 23
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 49
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 61
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 113
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 170

Redskins locks and bubble players

Yesterday I looked at players who will not be returning to the Redskins in 2016. Today the focus shifts to the players who are on the roster and separating them into who is certain to be on the Week 1 roster and who is on the bubble.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Here are the players I see as roster locks:

Offense (15)

  • QB Kirk Cousins
  • QB Colt McCoy
  • RB Rob Kelley
  • RB Chris Thompson
  • WR Jamison Crowder
  • WR Josh Doctson
  • WR Terrelle Pryor
  • TE Jordan Reed
  • TE Vernon Davis
  • G Shawn Lauvao
  • G Brandon Scherff
  • C Spencer Long
  • OT Morgan Moses
  • OT Trent Williams
  • OT Ty Nsekhe

Defense (15)

  • DE Anthony Lanier
  • DE Terrell McClain
  • DE Stacy McGee
  • LB Will Compton
  • LB Mason Foster
  • OLB Junior Galette
  • OLB Ryan Kerrigan
  • OLB Preston Smith
  • OLB Trent Murphy
  • CB Bashaud Breeland
  • CB Quinton Dunbar
  • CB Kendall Fuller
  • CB Josh Norman
  • S Su’a Cravens
  • S D.J. Swearinger

Specialists (3)

  • K Dustin Hopkins
  • P Tress Way
  • LS Nick Sundberg

That totals 33 locks. These are players who are on the bubble; only players who were on the team last year or were notable signings are included here. The other street free agents signed are long shots.

Offense (9)

  • G Arie Kouandjio
  • OL Vinston Painter
  • QB Nate Sudfeld
  • RB Mack Brown
  • RB Matt Jones
  • TE Derek Carrier
  • TE Niles Paul
  • WR Maurice Harris
  • WR Ryan Grant

Most of these bubble players will be watching the draft closely. A quarterback drafted early would be bad news for Sudfeld. A third-round guard could be an ominous sign for Kouandjio. The three I most strongly considered putting the lock list were Jones, Paul, and Harris but too much can happen to call them sure things.

Defense (15)

  • DE Ziggy Hood
  • DE Matt Ioannidis
  • DE A.J. Francis
  • NT Phil Taylor
  • OLB Houston Bates
  • LB Chris Carter
  • LB Steven Daniels
  • LB Martrell Spaight
  • OLB Lynden Trail
  • LB Zach Vigil
  • CB Tharold Simon
  • S Josh Evans
  • S Deshazor Everett
  • S DeAngelo Hall
  • S Earl Wolff

The three closest to being locks here are Hall, Hood, and Spaight. Hall has to show that he can come back from his ACL, Hood could get bumped out by promising draft picks, and Spaight needs to fend off potential draft picks and possibly Daniels and Vigil.

I’ll take another look at this after the draft to see how things shift.

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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