- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2016

RICHMOND — Before every team meeting, Houston Bates takes his place in the second row, second seat from the left. It’s where he began sitting in 2015 after the Washington Redskins took a chance and signed the undrafted outside linebacker from Louisiana Tech.

He remained there during the preseason when he recorded three sacks. Bates returned to it after he was cut, signed to the practice squad, and then joined the Redskins for 10 regular-season games as a special teams player.

The first time Bates sat in that seat during training camp there was a brief moment of reflection, especially now since the second-year player has a great opportunity to earn an increased role on defense after Junior Galette tore his right Achilles tendon before camp.

“This is where the journey started a year ago,” Bates said. “That’s where I’m holding it down.”

Bates knows his niche last season was as a special teams grinder. With Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Trent Murphy anchoring the outside linebacker position, Bates played 40.4 percent of special teams snaps — sixth most on the team. He recorded five tackles, tied with former safety Jeron Johnson for second most behind defensive back Deshazor Everett.

Now that Murphy has switched to defensive end, the Redskins will rely heavily on Smith, entering his second season after recording eight sacks as a rookie, to fill the void left by Galette. Bates will compete for a backup role with Willie Jefferson and Lynden Trail.

As a backup linebacker, a player can endear themselves to the coaching staff with strong special teams play. Bates knows he brings that, but is eager to improve himself as a defender.

“It’s fun, you know?” Bates said. “I know I have to step my game up and make more of an impact this year and I’m willing to take on that role, continue to play special teams and be the force on special teams I am, and then fill in on defense where they need me. Injuries are part of the game and everyone needs to be ready.”

One of the biggest things outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky has harped on with Bates is his break from the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped, whether the outside linebacker is in a three-point stance or standing up.

Manusky said Bates is still working to craft his technique. Likewise, Bates has enjoyed working with Manusky, who has 27 years of experience as a player and a coach and is in his first season with the Redskins after the team did not have an outside linebackers coach in 2015.

“It’s a more hands-on approach,” Bates said of working with Manusky. “I really take the coaching he gives us. He’s a very well-educated football coach, been around the game more than I’ve been alive. I’m making the most of it.”

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