It’s been plenty harped on this offseason that the Washington Redskins’ linebacking core needed an upgrade. They brought in 2016 Pro Bowler Zach Brown to help on the inside. And the team drafted Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson. He was the No. 49th overall selection in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
While Brown should be a starter come Week 1, the same could and maybe even should be said of Anderson, assuming he proves himself in camp. Yes, drafting Anderson creates a logjam at outside linebacker, but the former ‘Bama product has the tools to emerge as the Week 1 starter.
For a spot opposite reliable Ryan Kerrigan, Anderson has some stiff competition. There’s 16-game starter Preston Smith, Junior Galette, who hopes to return the Achilles injury suffered last July, and Trent Murphy. But the latter will be unavailable for the first four games of the season due to a league suspension. There’s also Houston Bates, who’ll most likely be on the bubble with Anderson now in the fold and with Galette’s return.
Smith will probably be Anderson’s biggest competitor, having emerged as the starter last year. Though he had his inconsistencies, Smith did show some flashes of great play-making ability. One game that comes to mind is his career day in a win over the Vikings, seeing Smith record two sacks and haul in an impressive one-handed interception. But there were still many times last season where Smith was invisible in games.
While Galette has shown the playmaker he can be, coming back from a serious injury like an Achilles certainly isn’t easy, and depending on how his body reacts, he may never be the same player he was.
If Anderson were to win the job on the strong side, it would be tough to see defensive coordinator Greg Manusky pull the rookie in favor of Murphy after Week 4, if Anderson’s playing well. And what also is an important and perhaps an underlying key is if Anderson can contribute on special teams. That never hurts an incoming rookie, no matter what his situation is.
The path to claiming the starting job is there for Anderson. Now it’s time for him to bring it.
Matt Catrillo is a Washington Redskins Contributor for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @MCatrillo. For more coverage on the Redskins and the NFL from Matt, tune in to the Football Friday Podcast.