Washington Redskins 2017 first quarter positional grades: Defense
There were some serious questions about the Redskins rush linebackers coming into the season. Ryan Kerrigan was expected to reprise his role as the consistent pass rushing threat on one side of the defensive line, but there were questions about who his bookend would be. Trent Murphy, last year’s breakout performer, tore his ACL and MCL in the preseason and it was unclear who would step up and replace him. That man turned out to be Preston Smith.
In retrospect, that shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. As a rookie in 2015, Smith had totaled eight sacks playing across from Kerrigan, but regressed in his second year as teams figured out how to neutralize him. However, Smith still had the excellent athleticism and length to be an effective pass rusher, and he has put it all together again in his third season.
Smith has been one of the most consistent players on the defense, and he has racked up four sacks in four games to start the season. He has done well to get into the backfield and he is one of the quickest players off the snap in the league. He has allowed Kerrigan to get more one on one matchups, and that has been hugely beneficial to the Redskins.
Elsewhere at the position, the team has used both Junior Galette and Ryan Anderson in limited roles that have suited then well. Galette has done well to function as a decent backup pass rusher while Anderson has been a nice tackler in run support. Anderson has also played a role on special teams and has generally looked solid.
The Redskins have a very strong unit at rush linebacker. There’s no doubt about. Kerrigan and Smith are a fearsome duo while their backups are fierce competitors who do well when on the field. If this team had Murphy, they could have one of the best pass rushing trios in the league. The Redskins deserve a high grade at this position, and it may well be the strongest on their defense.