As players take their final breaks before training camp, we will take a look back at the new faces from this offseason and what we've learned about them, football and otherwise, so far.
Today we’ll focus on linebacker Pernell McPhee.
1. He is one of three players on the Redskins' roster with a Super Bowl Ring.
McPhee returns to the East Coast after three seasons with the Chicago Bears, where he was rewarded with a multi-year contract in 2013 due to his dominant play with the Baltimore Ravens, who won Super Bowl XLVII.
The only other players on the Redskins' 90-man roster with a ring are running back Kapri Bibbs and tight end Vernon Davis, who earned their championship victories with the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
The eight-year veteran signed with the Redskins in late March, and has been regarded as one of the better free agent signings this offseason because of what he brings to the table from a pass-rush consistency standpoint. The former Mississippi State Bulldog will be a great complement to Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan on the outside, and could help improve Washington's run struggles from last year too.
2. His path to the NFL was an uphill battle.
McPhee did not begin playing football until his senior year of high school in Pahokee, Fla., where he recorded 35 tackles for loss and was named to the All-State team in Florida.
Initially signing with the University of Southern Mississippi, the eight-year veteran decided to play his first two years of college at Itawamba Community College, just an hour and half away from his future alma mater of Mississippi State in Fulton, Miss. He dominated in his two seasons at Itawamba, and was named an NJCAA All-American as a sophomore after recording 13.5 sacks.
"He was always lifting others up and never putting them down," McPhee's community college coach Jon Williams said to The Baltimore Sun. "In my opinion, there was not a whole lot of counseling that had to be done in terms of getting him to buy into the program. He's just a competitor, and I firmly believe that he could've played a few sports and been successful at them because he is a competitor."
3. He's becoming a favorite among the outside linebackers core.
As a player that is now on his third NFL franchise, McPhee understands what he needs to do to become acquainted with his fellow outside linebackers. It certainly helps that he has surrounded himself with other veterans like Kerrigan and Preston Smith.
“Big baby is what they call him," said outside linebackers coach Chad Grimm. "You adapt to their style of play and we knew that bringing him in, he’s been tremendous so far. We love his attitude, his makeup, and his physicality is probably the biggest thing. We understood that when we signed him what he brings to the table. That’s every type of body, frame, you just adapt to that type of stuff to his play.
"We have plans, schemes, and ideas in how we’re going to use him and utilize his skillset. It’s not always about fitting everyone into the scheme; it’s fitting around their scheme. We understand what he is and how we’re going to use him and utilize his skillset and upside. His physicality, strength, and aggression can be used in different kinds of schemes and different rush methods."
4. He is now the second Mississippi State Bulldog on the Redskins' roster.
While they didn't officially play together in Starksville, Miss., Preston Smith and McPhee, who both played on the defensive line for the Bulldogs, are considered two of the best pass rushers in the school's history.
The two have combined for 34.5 sacks over the past three seasons and are looking to push the Redskins into one of the best pass rush defenses in the league.
"It's going to be very interesting to get to know him [Smith] more and help him push me and push him," McPhee said.
5. He won't have as much pressure on him to fully deliver compared to his time in Chicago.
During his four seasons with the Ravens, McPhee was a reliable option while working aside stars like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.
When he joined the Bears in 2013, though, the expectation was that the Mississippi State product would solidify himself as Chicago's primary pass rusher. This held a great deal of importance for the Bears and their success defensively, mainly due to the fact that they face two star quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford twice a year.
Unfortunately, McPhee never could really string together the right set of games to become the player the Bears wanted him to be due to suffering multiple injuries in his three years with the team.
Now serving as a complimentary option to established names in Kerrigan and Smith, the veteran linebacker has a real chance to return to the form that made him a threat in Baltimore.
6. The decision to join the Redskins was close, but he thought it was the right one.
Questions were raised about if McPhee still had enough in the tank to compete at the highest level after the Bears released him earlier this year, but the veteran believes that he is trending in the right direction after joining a defense that shares similar traits to Vic Fangio's defense in "The Windy City."
When McPhee was getting ready to sign with the Redskins, he was also weighing an offer from the Atlanta Falcons. But Washington had too many positive in its offer to turn down.
"It was probably one of the biggest decisions I had to make on my own in my life,” McPhee said. “Because you never know what you’re going to get out of the other team but coach Greg [Manusky], the defensive coordinator, he helped me out, [Senior Vice President of Player Personnel] Mr. [Doug] Williams helped me out a lot too. They just let me know that I’d be taken care of and be comfortable, just knowing the system and the 3-4 and knowing that I have a brotherhood and a father figure there, too. That really helped me out.”
7. He will be in a leadership role for the linebackers.
With so many new faces on the Redskins' roster, McPhee will be responsible for becoming one of the key voices on Greg Manusky's defense. He can be used as an inspiration for players like Josh Harvey-Clemons and Ryan Anderson, who are still learning how to establish themselves as regulars in a league where your time is very limited.
"They’ve always been solid, hardworking guys and extremely intelligent so the mental errors have been down with them and I’m really just pleased with how they’ve been learning and just through the process with this and continuing to grow better at their craft," Grimm said during minicamp.