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Redskins 2017 roster battles: Who starts opposite Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: Who starts opposite Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back 

Outside Linebacker

The contenders: Ryan Kerrigan is the lone sure thing in the Redskins outside linebacker group, but that doesn't mean the unit is without talent. Kerrigan has averaged double digit sacks over the least three seasons, and it's safe to expect the same in 2017. What will be interesting to watch is who lines up opposite Kerrigan. Trent Murphy impressed last season, getting nine sacks in his first breakout season after a second-round selection in the 2014 draft. To start the 2017 season, however, Murphy will sit out the first four games for a substance violation suspension. Preston Smith slipped to five sacks after an eight sack rookie season in 2015. Those three got the vast majority of the snaps on the outside of the Redskins 3-4 base defense.

In 2017, second round pick Ryan Anderson will compete for snaps, likely right away. A highly productive player at Alabama, Anderson has the size to set the edge against the run that Washington has needed from their outside linebackers. He doesn't have the explosive athleticism of Smith, but his effort and strength will allow him to turn the corner against NFL tackles. The wild card in the outside linebacker room is Junior Galette. Blessed with elite speed off the edge, Galette proved to be a dominant edge rusher for the Saints in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He hasn't played since. Two straight years of Achilles injuries have kept Galette off the field. If he can remain healthy the Redskins would have a very deep group of highly competent edge rushers. 

The winner is...

Finlay: Let's preface this by making one thing clear: No good football team can ever have enough edge rushers. NFL teams pay a serious premium on the edge, both in guaranteed money and in draft position. If the Redskins get to Week 1 with Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy, Galette and Anderson all healthy and ready to go, they will be in a strong spot. And we know the Week 1 starter won't be Murphy because of the suspension.

Beyond that, it's just too hard to predict Galette to start. Injuries have derailed him for two seasons, and he will have to show coaches he is the same player before he gets back on the field. Plus, coaches would be smart to limit Galette's snaps to true pass rushing situations to preserve his health. 

That leaves Smith and Anderson, and that could be just what the Redskins brass wants. Smith is an elite athlete, but as Jay Gruden said repeatedly in 2016, the coaching staff also felt the need to push the former Mississippi State star. Maybe Anderson's presence - a hard-charging rookie - will push Smith to his best. The guess here is Smith is on the opposite side of Kerrigan against the Eagles, but Anderson will play plenty. 

Looking at 2016, Kerrigan led the Redskins edge defenders with 477 pass rush snaps. Murphy and Smith were not far behind though, with 417 and 400 snaps respectively. New Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky plans to be aggressive, and the best defenses have fresh legs to rush passers in the fourth quarter. With Anderson's arrival, and perhaps the return of Galette, the Redskins should have just that. And that should make them a much better defense on third down, and in general.

Tandler: 

A good assessment here by JP. I’ll add a quote from Gruden from just a few hours after the team drafted Anderson. He recalled watching film with Anderson when the prospect paid a pre-draft visit to Redskins Park:

“Watching film with him, he’s standing up watching film and talking about everybody’s job. He’s just a very high energy, high motor, tenacious guy and I think it’s going to rub off on a lot of people.”

There is no doubt that one of the people he hopes that Anderson’s attitude affects is Smith. If it does, then Smith should retain his starting job. But look for Anderson and Galette if he’s healthy and Murphy when his suspension is over to rotate in plenty. Waves of fresh, talented pass rushers are a quarterback’s nightmare and that is what Manusky would like to have at his disposal this season. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Following a slew of reports that cast doubt on the Redskins reaching a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins, ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Tuesday that the impass is not about money. 

If the report is true, then Washington has run out of good options for retaining Cousins in the long term.

It's possible the team could use a third-straight franchise tag to keep him next season, but the price tag around $34 million would be astronomical for one season.

The transition tag would be worth in the neighborhood of $28 million. 

Russini doesn't elaborate on the reasons behind her report that Cousins wouldn't be happy in Washington regardless of price. But it's important to note that both teams and players have incentive to create leverage in contract negotiations through the media. 

The Redskins have until July 17 to reach a long-term deal with Cousins. 

MORE REDSKINS: Backup center again a question mark for the Redskins

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Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?

Up today…

Position: Interior offensive line

On the roster: Guards Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams; Centers Spencer Long, Chase Roullier, Ronald Patrick

Locks: Lauvao, Scherff, Kouandjio, Long

As noted here this morning, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Lauvao would be on his way out. But free agency and the draft went by and no serious challenger for him was acquired. It looks like they will let him play out the last year of his free agent contract and then see what they want to do with him next year when he will be a 30-year-old free agent.

RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down

The Redskins might like Kouandjio, going into his third season, to emerge as a viable option as Lauvao’s successor. He was not up to the task in a couple of spot starts last year. But, just like Lauvao, he can take some comfort in the fact that the organization did not expend any major resources on bringing in another guard for competition.

Scherff went to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He will be a fixture at right guard for the next decade or so, provided the Redskins can figure out a way to get a third high-priced offensive lineman under the salary cap (in addition to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses).

Long did a solid job in his first year as the starting center. He will anchor the line again this year. He is eligible for a contract extension and it will be interesting to see if talks heat up between now and training camp.

On the bubble: Roullier

In an ideal Redskins world, the rookie sixth-round pick would be able to learn center and both guard spots well enough to be a workable fill-in on game days. In the real world, that may not work. During minicamp, offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me that while he had been impressed with how well Roullier had picked things up so far, the real test will come with the pads on in Richmond.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

Long shots: Catalina, Kalais, Williams, Patrick

You never know what will happen during the preseason but it seems that the practice squad is the best hope for any of these guys to be around Ashburn in the fall. If injury or issues with Roullier’s development create a hole in the depth chart in the 53-man roster the organization is likely to go outside to find help off the waiver wire. Two or three on this list are likely to be back for another shot in 2018.  

Redskins 2017 depth chart previews: Offensive tackle | Wide receiver

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.