Pass rush takes a hard hit

Line­backer Mur­phy’s sea­son-end­ing ACL tear will test Red­skins’ depth

The Washington Post - - SPORTS - BY MASTER TESFATSION

It took 27 plays of preseason foot­ball be­fore the Washington Red­skins’ depth at out­side line­backer was abruptly chal­lenged. Out­side line­backer Trent Mur­phy will miss the sea­son be­cause of a torn an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his left knee, ac­cord­ing to a per­son with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion.

An MRI exam Fri­day re­vealed the in­jury, which hap­pened dur­ing the Red­skins’ third de­fen­sive se­ries of Thurs­day night’s preseason opener vs. the Bal­ti­more Ravens at M&T Bank Sta­dium. Mur­phy didn’t talk to re­porters af­ter the game, but he left the vis­i­tors’ locker room on crutches with his left knee heav­ily wrapped.

The sit­u­a­tion leaves Washington with one less qual­ity op­tion at the po­si­tion, which has had a no­table in­jury for three straight years; Ju­nior Galette missed the past two sea­sons be­cause of torn Achilles’ ten­dons. Mur­phy, 26, fin­ished sec­ond on the team with nine sacks last year, tak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant step in his de­vel­op­ment as a pass rusher that con­tin­ued this sum­mer dur­ing train­ing camp.

Mur­phy was sched­uled to miss the first four games of the sea­son for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s pol­icy on per­for­mance-en­hance­ment drugs. He will serve the sus­pen­sion while in­jured, for­feit­ing four game checks to­tal­ing $185,315 of his $787,591 base salary in 2017.

The in­jury also will have fi­nan­cial ram­i­fi­ca­tions for Mur­phy as a pend­ing free agent next off­sea­son. The sec­ond-round pick in 2014 was in the fi­nal year of his rookie deal and won’t

the chance to prove his value on the field in a con­tract year.

The Red­skins had enough depth at out­side line­backer to nav­i­gate around Mur­phy’s sus­pen­sion with Ryan Ker­ri­gan, Pre­ston Smith, Galette and rookie Ryan An­der­son. They’ll have to hope they have enough tal­ent to han­dle an en­tire 16-game sea­son with­out Mur­phy, but many ques­tions re­main af­ter the preseason opener.

Smith missed Thurs­day’s game be­cause of a sprained an­kle he suf­fered last week in prac­tice. Red­skins Coach Jay Gru­den said at the time of the in­jury that Smith could be side­lined for “a week or two.” Galette wasn’t in uni­form be­cause of a ham­string in­jury, although he par­tic­i­pated dur­ing prac­tice lead­ing up to the game.

Beyond the train­ing camp in­jury con­cerns, the Red­skins lacked a con­sis­tent pass rusher last sea­son to pair with Ker­ri­gan, who earned Pro Bowl hon­ors with a team-high 11 sacks. Smith, a sec­ond-round pick in 2015, dis­played flashes of his po­ten­tial but was in­con­sis­tent. He fin­ished with 41/ sacks in his

2 sec­ond year af­ter record­ing eight as a rookie. Smith, 24, looked stronger dur­ing train­ing camp be­fore the in­jury, but it’s un­clear how that will trans­late in live ac­tion.

Galette has been one of the most im­pres­sive play­ers dur­ing train­ing camp, dis­play­ing the skill set that helped him pro­duce 22 sacks for the New Or­leans Saints in 2013 and 2014. But Galette has yet to be in uni­form for a game as a Red­skin be­cause of two sea­so­nend­ing in­juries. He hasn’t aphave peared in an NFL reg­u­lar sea­son game since Dec. 28, 2014.

An­der­son now be­comes de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Manusky’s fourth op­tion in the out­side line­backer ro­ta­tion. An­der­son is a phys­i­cal player with good en­ergy, record­ing three com­bined tack­les against Bal­ti­more, but, as a rookie, he is still get­ting ac­cli­mated to the league.

“It was some­thing to build off of,” An­der­son said af­ter Thurs­day’s preseason de­but. “I know what to work on, and I got a good feel for the speed of the game. I was just try­ing to play with in­ten­sity. I need to watch the film and then build off of this.”

Note: Red­skins strong safety Su’a Cravens also was to have an MRI on Fri­day af­ter he suf­fered a knee in­jury early in the first quar­ter Thurs­day night. There was no im­me­di­ate word from the team about the re­sults of the exam.

TONI L. SANDYS/THE WASHINGTON POST

Trent Mur­phy, who had nine sacks last year, is helped off the field with a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury that leaves the Red­skins thin at out­side line­backer.

GAIL BUR­TON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Trent Mur­phy was sec­ond on the Red­skins in sacks last sea­son and had made fur­ther strides in train­ing camp be­fore his knee in­jury.

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