@john_keim Why no true LB coach this year? Like QBs last year, seems like the unit has regressed. #jkquestion— Zack Jenkins (@RedskinsST21) November 20, 2015
John Keim: I wanted to answer this one because there were more questions about the linebackers than anything else. And I’ve received others like this in the past couple weeks. The linebacker play has been way too inconsistent and disappointing so I’m with everyone there (but not all those big runs to the outside are solely the fault of the linebacker; defensive backs have missed too many tackles in those situations).
But, to start, the Redskins do have a linebackers coach and he’s someone I respect a great deal: Kirk Olivadotti. There’s a reason he has been a part of five different coaching staffs with the Redskins. He’s low-key so I think that’s partly why he hasn’t ascended to being a coordinator. But he’s an excellent teacher.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry also helps with the linebackers. However, I don’t think it would be a bad thing to hire another outside linebackers coach like they had last season. Just for another set of dedicated eyes. But I’m also not one to just blame coaches if players don’t improve; sort of some responsibility on the player, too.
To me, Keenan Robinson was inconsistent last year; he made some plays that were very noticeable because of his speed. But he missed too many and there were issues with the linebackers not always hitting the right gaps. I don’t think he’s regressed as much as he hasn’t improved the way everyone hoped. Linebacker Perry Riley Jr. is having the same issues he has had in the past.
But I’d say Will Compton has improved and I don’t think Trent Murphy has regressed – that doesn’t mean I think he’s a quality starter, but he’s better than in 2014 (by how much is debatable). Compton’s communication skills helped vs. New Orleans and he has as much passion and desire to get to the ball as anyone on the defense.
Ryan Kerrigan has not had the same impact as he did a year ago. He’s second on the team with 3.5 sacks and third with 13 quarterback pressures. In the past he has made impact plays, but not this season with only one forced fumble. Last season he had a team-best 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. I don’t think it’s helped him having his knee scoped in the spring and then breaking his hand recently. I don’t think Kerrigan is a worse player; he’s just not having the same impact. I can’t say it’s because he’s now getting more double-teams minus Brian Orakpo; the inside push was supposed to help as well. But one big game could put him on a different pace.
Also, the Redskins haven’t replaced Orakpo. You can complain about him all you want, but he was still someone who would flirt with double digit sacks. Plus he improved vs. the run every season.
I thought Preston Smith would be starting by now, but it’s hard for me to say that it’s a result of coaching. Players develop at different paces and it’s clear he still has some things to learn. I talked to him about this Thursday, but on the 70-yard run by Mark Ingram last week, for example, Smith eased up running to the ball. Had he kept running hard, it would have been a 5-yard gain.
Had Junior Galette stayed healthy, I’m not sure we’d be having the same conversation.
I do think the Redskins will try to improve this position in the offseason, notably on the inside. Trust me when I say I don’t think the linebacker play has been good enough. They could use more explosiveness off the edge (Galette) as well as inside. But I don’t worry about Kerrigan and I’ll be curious to see how Smith develops.