Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart.
Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until it's finalized Aug 31.
So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …
Position: Left outside linebacker
On the roster: Ryan Kerrigan, Darryl Tapp, Brandon Jenkins, Vic So’oto, Ricky Elmore, Will Compton
Expected to make the cut: Kerrigan
Comment: It should come as no surprise that Kerrigan is a lock to be the starter Week 1.
The 24-year-old registered a career-high 8.5 sacks in 2012, forced two fumbles, returned an interception for a touchdown and earned his first Pro Bowl berth. Meantime, ProFootballFocus.com credited the third-year pro with more quarterback hurries (50) than any other 3-4 outside linebacker.
Kerrigan’s effectiveness was, however, negatively impacted by the loss of Brian Orakpo to a season-ending injury in Week 2. With Orakpo out, Kerrigan attracted more double teams and chip blocks from tight ends and running backs. There were also games in which Kerrigan’s responsibilities included more pass coverage duty, thus cutting down his number of sack opportunities.
But Orakpo has returned and, by all accounts, is 100-percent recovered. That should have a positive effect on Kerrigan’s consistency – and the Redskins’ pass rush on a whole. In 2012, the team’s sack total declined to 32 from 41 the previous season.
Fighting for a job: Tapp, Jenkins, So’oto, Elmore, Compton
Comment: Last season, the Redskins kept four outside linebackers on the opening day roster – Orakpo, Kerrigan, Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson.
Jackson was Orakpo’s backup on the right side and that doesn’t seem likely to change. But because Jackson has been suspended for the first four games and won’t be on the 53-man roster to open the season, that would appear to leave two jobs open on cutdown day. (Wilson was not re-signed and the versatile Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Cardinals. Depth player Mario Addison is also gone.)
The coaching staff is high on rookie Brandon Jenkins, who, from the sounds of it, will be asked to contribute sooner rather than later.
“So far, what I see from him, I think he’s another guy that’s going to be a good player down the road,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said of the fifth round pick.
Tapp, meantime, is converting to linebacker after playing defensive end for the Eagles last season. He has 24 sacks in seven seasons, so the 28-year-old will be in the mix.
What it all means for So’oto, who was listed as Kerrigan’s backup for a number of games last season, Elmore and Compton remains to be seen.