With a plethora of injuries at outside linebacker, players such as Lynden Trail are trying to take advantage of increased reps to fill the void left by others.
It was a thin group at outside linebacker for Saturday's practice, a product of a series of injuries, the most devastating of which came early in Thursday's preseason opener against the Ravens, when Trent Murphy was lost for the season with a torn left ACL.
Murphy walked off the field with the help of trainers in serious pain and learned of his fate after an MRI. His absence, in the immediate and distant future, was compounded by lingering injuries affecting Ryan Anderson (stinger), Junior Galette (hamstring) and Preston Smith (ankle).
"It's really unfortunate, man, because Trent is a hard worker, he's brought a lot to this defense, and he stretched to our outside linebacker room and he was a great guy," Smith said of Murphy.
"You're talking about a hell of a football player, human being, and a pass rusher," right tackle Morgan Moses said. "Just to see somebody go down like that, especially in the preseason, it's definitely hard. It's hard to deal with that. Especially because I go against him every day and I know he brings something different to the table that a lot of guys don't have. Being able to work against him each day, it's definitely an edge for me. Losing that guy, losing a fourth-year player, a leader, and a guy that had 9.5 sacks last year."
That's meant others have had to step up, knowing they have an opportunity borne of unfortunate circumstances. Inside linebacker Pete Robertson switched to the outside to give the team another pass rusher while Lynden Trail, who played the most snaps on the defense (53) in Thursday's game, has learned to play both the Will and Sam linebacker positions to provide more versatility.
"That's kind of why my reps racked up to be so much because I was out there playing both positions at the same time. Not to mention special teams at the end of the day as well," Trail said. "Going from starting a game out with five outside linebackers to just three at the end of the game, we're all encouraging each other, it almost felt like the fourth preseason game already. It's our job to stay in shape, go out there and know our assignments and play to the best of our ability."
The Washington Redskins defense and special teams conducted their twelfth day of training camp practice Saturday, August 12, 2017 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
Trail is trying to make the team's 53-man roster in his third season. He spent two stints on the team's practice squad last year, with a brief period with the Rams in between, before the Redskins signed him to the active roster for the final two games of the season.
When Murphy went down, Trail knew he had to take over for the majority of the game.
"[Trent] came off the sideline and looked at me and was like, 'It's time for you to step up,'" Trail said. "As of right now, I sent him a text yesterday and just let him know and I'm praying for a speedy recovery, understand that God has it at the end of the day. I've been working in with the ones, and it's a faster pace, but it's more communication and I feel a lot more confortable knowing I can turn around and hey, we got this, we got that, and I'm hearing some reverb back from it."
Trail's young career, which began with the Texans as a college free agent, has given him a greater perspective about the circumstances the outside linebackers group is currently facing. Soon, the team's depth will be replenished, but the sting of Murphy's loss remains a reminder about how precious each play on the field is.
"This is something like a brotherhood," Trail said. "Whether you end up on the 53-man roster at the end of the day or not, you gotta understand that these are guys you're going to war with every day. You might end up on a different team, but years from now they'll see you and they'll remember the struggle that you went through at training camp and the bruises and cuts, the tears, the bleeding. You look back at it and those become memories over time."