Redskins Position Battles: Preston Smith will miss 1-2 weeks after spraining ankle in practice
Preston Smith is locked in to a position battle at the rush linebacker position for the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately, a sprained ankle will keep him sidelined for the next week or so.
Coming into the 2017 season, Preston Smith had to prove himself. After having a strong rookie season in which he recorded eight sacks, Smith had an up-and-down 2016 campaign that saw him record five sacks. He didn’t really produce until halfway through the season, and essentially lost his starting job to Trent Murphy, who had a career year in his third season.
Smith’s last chance to prove that he is capable of handling a starting role is probably going to be this season. Murphy is suspended for the first four games due to PED use, and Smith was the logical candidate to step up. But with hard-working second round rookie Ryan Anderson coming into the fold and veteran Junior Galette looking to prove himself after a second straight season on Injured Reserve, Smith’s competition was fierce.
Still, thanks to his athleticism and experience with the team, Smith was expected to be the early favorite to start in Murphy’s stead. However, Smith has hurt his ankle, according to ESPN’s John Keim, who passed along information given by Jay Gruden in a recent press conference.
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"Linebacker Preston Smith will miss a week or two, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, after spraining an ankle in practice earlier this week. Smith had been working as the starting outside linebacker opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Smith’s injury will give two players a chance for more snaps with the starters: Junior Galette and rookie Ryan Anderson."
On paper, that ankle sprain will likely not have a long term impact on Smith’s ability in 2017. But his case for holding the starting job could take a hit if he has to miss the reported week or two.
The fact is that Anderson and Galette are exciting players. Anderson had a relentless motor while he was at Alabama, and that is what made him a target of the Redskins in the second round. He isn’t the flashiest athlete, but he gets the job done consistently. The Redskins value that.
As for Galette, he is one of the bigger boom-or-bust players on the team this year. The last time Galette played a down in the NFL came in 2013. He was with the Saints and recorded 10 sacks after recording 12 in the previous season. Galette was supposed to be the complement to Ryan Kerrigan, but two straight Achilles injuries have prevented him from ever suiting up with the team. Now, he is hungry and healthy again, but the question is, will that last?
Next: Will Terrelle Pryor remain in Washington after 2017?
Both of these players will benefit from Smith’s absence, no matter how brief it may be. Anderson and Galette will get some first team reps, as Keim reported, and that could be huge for both guys. If Anderson can show improvement with each day and if Galette can show flashes of the player he once was, Smith’s grip on the starting job for the opening month will be tenuous at best. That will make this one of the top position battles to watch as the Redskins preseason gets underway on Thursday night.