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Phil Taylor has a similar story to Junior Galette, and he could have a bigger impact

Phil Taylor has a similar story to Junior Galette, and he could have a bigger impact

There's a member of the Redskins' front seven who hasn't played in the last two seasons, and yet, the team is relying on him to produce at a crucial position in 2017.

C'mon, you've read enough stories about Junior Galette by now, haven't you? Because while Galette certainly fits the above description, Phil Taylor does, too — and if he stays healthy, he could end up mattering more to Washington's defense than Galette.

Taylor, who hasn't played in the NFL since 2014 and hasn't had a sack since 2013, looks to be the favorite to win the starting nose tackle job for Greg Manusky's defense. He had a promising camp in Richmond, and through two preseason games, has carried that positive play into game action.

On Monday's edition of Training Camp Daily on CSN, Trevor Matich spoke about what he's seen from No. 99 so far.

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"He has not only earned that starting position," Matich said (full video above), "he has shown that he might be that missing force in the middle that the Redskins have not had for a long time, and that is a nose guard that can be a plugger against the run and not get pushed around, but who can also be disruptive."

A 3-4 defense without a nose tackle is like that one Jason Bourne movie without Matt Damon: not very good. And that's an issue that Washington's had for a few years now. So while a rejuvenated Galette would do wonders for the all-important pass rush, having an effective Taylor in the middle of everything may be even more necessary to the Redskins' success.

JP Finlay gave one example of how Taylor can impact a matchup.

"If you got Phil Taylor there at nose, that's going to open those gaps up for Jonathan Allen," Finlay said. "And you talk about what could be a pretty dynamic tandem on the defensive line, a position where the Redskins have not had anything close to dynamic for a number of years. What a veteran like Taylor could do for a rookie like that could be special."

The usual caveat for someone with this story is to not get too excited over a small sample. And some would say the Redskins are foolish for putting so much faith in Taylor's ability to stay on the field and do damage on it as well.

But so far, the reviews on Taylor have been quite encouraging. So while his name isn't as big as Galette's or many other members of the defense, his influence will be if he manages to keep developing.

RELATED: SAMAJE PERINE ON WHY HE ALREADY FEELS MORE COMFORTABLE

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Redskins Playbook: Looking at Kirk Cousins' Week 2 hits and misses

Redskins Playbook: Looking at Kirk Cousins' Week 2 hits and misses

Kirk Cousins played better in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, but the quarterback still didn't play as well as he's proved capable in previous seasons. He finished the 27-20 win over the Rams by going 18 of 27 for 179 yards with a touchdown. Important for Cousins, after three turnovers in a Week 1 loss, he did not fumble or throw an interception in Los Angeles. 

RELATED: WEEK 2 NFL POWER RANKINGS

Digging deeper into the numbers, one trend has emerged: Cousins and the Redskins are not having much luck in the downfield passing game. Stats provided by Pro Football Focus.

  • This season, Cousins has not completed a pass longer than 20 yards in the air. Against the Eagles in Week 1, Cousins missed on five deep attempts. Against the Rams, Cousins didn't have a deep attempt. 
  • Not surprisingly, Cousins does much better when he's not under pressure. On the season, the Redskins passer is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes without pressure, and that number drops to just below 43 percent under pressure. 
  • Cousins took four sacks against the Eagles, but that number dropped in half against the Rams.
  • Against the Rams, Cousins found his greatest success throwing to his left. On attempts to his left side, he completed all five attempts. Throwing over the middle or to the right, he threw 19 passes and completed 13. Week 1 Cousins also found his best success throwing to his left. 

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Preston Smith off to a strong start but Redskins want to see more

Preston Smith off to a strong start but Redskins want to see more

The end of Preston Smith’s 2015 rookie season set high expectations for his future. The outside linebacker racked up six sacks in the final four games including three in the Redskins’ division-clinching win in Philadelphia and one that got Aaron Rodgers for a safety in their wild-card playoff game. His eight sacks led all NFL rookies

But he wasn’t the player the team hoped he would be in 2016, at least not consistently. Smith got 4.5 sacks on the year. He had some dominant games like the one against the Vikings when he got two sacks and his first career interception. But he also disappeared for weeks at a time.

This past offseason the Redskins drafted outside linebacker Ryan Anderson in the second round and they re-signed Junior Galette. You always want to have good depth at the edge rushing position but it also appeared that the organization wanted to ensure that it would have alternatives if Smith’s sophomore slump extended into his third season.

RELATED: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS' WIN IN LA

But so far, we have seen a Preston Smith who looks more like the one who finished up his rookie season than the often invisible 2016 version. He has two sacks in two games plus two quarterback hits and two hurries. While it’s very early, Smith is starting to live up to the potential he showed as a rookie.

His versatility has impressed Jay Gruden.

“I think he’s doing good against the run, number one,” he said. “That’s what we have to do. He’s got to set the point. You’ve got to set the point of attack, and he’s done a good job of that.”

Per Pro Football Focus, Smith has played 86 snaps. He has rushed the passer in most his plays, 46. But he also has defended the run 28 snaps and has dropped back into coverage 12 times. He has allowed one reception for six yards in those coverage snaps.

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The rest of Gruden’s answer to the question about Smith’s play was interesting.

And then when he’s asked to rush some, he’s done fine. I think he and Junior [Galette] had some good rushes. Junior got that critical holding call that pushed them back out of the red zone and forcing them into a field goal and obviously [Ryan] Kerrigan is doing his thing, so all three of those guys are doing a great job as far as giving a chance of pace. Preston is doing a good job. He can go inside, he can use his bull [rush] and he’s working on his get off. So I think he’s getting better and better.

Note that Gruden is nowhere near over the top in his praise of Smith. He brings in Galette and Kerrigan to turn the topic to the pass rush in general and uses words like “fine” and “good” to describe Smith’s play. Smith has been a source of frustration for the coaches as he often has relied on his natural ability rather than working to master the finer points of the job. The willingness to work on the details is often the difference between a talented player who just gets by and one who racks up 15-sack seasons, goes to Pro Bowls, and gets paid with large contracts.

Smith’s start is encouraging for the Redskins but Gruden and company are going to want to see a lot more before they dish out big compliments for him.

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.