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Redskins have help wanted sign up at outside linebacker

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Redskins have help wanted sign up at outside linebacker

As free agency plods into its third week, most of the focus has been on the Redskins’ defensive backfield, the safety spot in particular. But there is another area on defense that will need to be shored up prior to the start of the season.

Outside linebacker is a vital position in the 3-4 defense and the Redskins find themselves a bit thin there at the moment. Starters Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are in place but the depth is lacking.

There were three backup OLB’s on the depth chart last year. Brandon Jenkins, last year’s fifth-round draft pick, is back. He played on defense in only four games last year, logging 41 snaps. The coaching staff talked him up all year as a player who would have been a first-round draft pick had he not missed his almost all of his senior season with a Lisfranc injury. He had eight sacks as a junior at Florida State.

Jenkins could be lining up with the starters when the offseason workouts start in two weeks. Orakpo hasn’t yet signed his franchise tag tender and he can’t participate until he does so. There has been no word on whether or not he plans to sign.

Chances are that Orakpo eventually will sign and when that happens Jenkins will remain somewhere on the depth chart. But it appears that the Redskins will have to replace the other two backups. Darryl Tapp, who played 86 snaps last year, has signed with the Lions. That’s a relatively minor loss.

The bigger departure would be that of Rob Jackson. He played 186 snaps last year and would have played a larger role had he not been suspended for a violation of the league’s PED policy for the first four games of the season. Although he hasn’t signed anywhere else yet, the word is that he won’t be back.

That leaves the Redskins in search of at least one backup outside linebacker. During the first week of free agency they had Anthony Spencer in for a visit and after some fairly extensive negotiations he left without a contract. He is still a free agent and he remains a possibility. But he is not yet fully recovered from microfracture surgery and the latest information is that he should be ready for training camp.

The Redskins were talking to Spencer in part because the pickings on the free agent market are quite slim. Shaun Phillips is the top 3-4 outside backer on the market and he’ll be 33 in May. Former Steeler and Bengal James Harrison is still a free agent but there hasn’t been any connecting of the dots between him and former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden at this point.

The draft is another possibility. Since the starters are set they likely would shy away from taking an outside linebacker with their top pick. But if someone like Jeremiah Attaochu of Georgia Tech or Dee Ford of Auburn or Louisville’s Marcus Smith is there when their third-round pick rolls around it would not be surprising to see Bruce Allen nab him.

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One stat that should make DeSean Jackson very dangerous against Eagles

One stat that should make DeSean Jackson very dangerous against Eagles

The Eagles defense is on a big-play streak, but not one that defensive coordinators will like very much, and it could be very good news for the Redskins and DeSean Jackson. 

At this stage of his career, Jackson is a well-known deep threat. While much of the 2016 season has been disappointing for Jackson, in back-to-back weeks, the vertical passing attack has worked. In Arizona last Sunday, Jackson only caught one pass, but it went for 59 yards. On Thanksgiving in Dallas, Jackson hauled in a 67-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins as part of his season-high 118 receiving yards.

"What he brings to this football team, he brings something that not a lot of people can bring, and that’s obviously the speed and the big play ability," 'Skins head coach Jay Gruden said of Jackson.

The last two games moved Jackson's yards-per-catch average back in normal range with the rest of his career at 16.5. Halfway through this season, Jackson was averaging below 14 YPC, which would have been by far the worst of his career.

"A lot of people think that we haven’t utilized his speed quite like we should, but I think he has had a major impact on this football team," Gruden said. "His deep threat has an impact on the defense. It opens up areas for Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder and the backs sometimes. He’s been a major influence for this football team in a good way."

Beyond just the big plays, the Eagles defense has given up 645 passing yards in their last two games. Cousins has historically played well in Philadelphia, and should be in good position to do the same this weekend.

And based on the Eagles' past six games, expect Jackson to have another big game at Lincoln Financial Field. 

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