Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will be taking a close look at the Redskins’ depth chart, dissecting each position.
Some spots are straightforward. Others are more complicated. This much, however, is not up for debate: A player is not on the 53-man roster until the final cuts are made.
So who are the odds-on favorites to start? And who’s in trouble? Up today …
Position: Outside linebacker.
On the roster: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Rob Jackson, Brandon Jenkins, Adrian Robinson and Gabe Miller.
Likely to make the 53: Orakpo, Kerrigan and Murphy.
Comment: The top three OLBs on the Redskins’ depth chart should not come as any surprise.
Orakpo, a three-time Pro Bowler, is coming off a 10-sack season, was franchised in March and will spend the 2014 season auditioning for the lucrative, long-term contract he covets. Kerrigan has posted back-to-back 8.5 sack seasons and coaches are hopeful he’ll elevate his game. Murphy, meantime, has seized the third spot and figures to play extensively after an impressive showing this spring.
And all three of them should benefit greatly from scheme tweaks and the addition of assistant coach Brian Baker, who was hired specifically to help the outside linebackers become more effective pass rushers.
Battling for a job: Jackson, Jenkins, Robinson and Miller.
Comment: Last season, the Redskins kept four outside linebackers on the 53-man roster. It’s possible, if not likely, they’ll target the same number again, particularly if they keep five inside linebackers (Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson, Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and special teams ace Adam Hayward).
If that’s the case, there won’t be much wiggle room for Jackson and Jenkins, the current front-runners to snag the final position. Jackson, 28, was suspended the first four games last season and saw limited playing time upon returning (186 snaps). Jenkins, on the other hand, recorded just one tackle in six games during a disappointing rookie campaign that was hampered by an ankle injury and his inability to help on special teams.
In the end, the fourth job could come down to Jackson’s proven ability (he had a strong season in 2012 as an injury replacement for Orakpo) vs. Jenkins’ promise. But it should also be noted that the Redskins also reportedly worked out veteran Quentin Groves last month, perhaps hinting that they’re not all that thrilled with their options.