By Rich Tandler
For the past few days here on Real Redskins we have been looking at the 2011 Washington Redskins position by position and player by player. Earlier, we looked at the offense (quarterbacks, offensive line, wide receivers, running backs and tight ends). Earlier today we looked at the defensive line and now, the linebackers go under the microscope.
Orakpo has been very good in his first two years in the NFL. Now he has a chance to step it up a notch and become an elite defender. He has a better line in front of him, he has someone who should draw some attention away from him on the other side in Ryan Kerrigan, and if training camp practices and preseason games are any indication he has improved his overall game. He has the potential to get 15 sacks, wreak havoc against the run game and not be a liability in pass coverage. That is the potential; we will see if he can turn it into reality.
Kerrigan got off to a rocky start, missing most of the first week of training camp with a knee problem. But he has come on well since then and you can see him refining his game almost play by play. He learns quickly. Despite that, the Redskins almost certainly will have to scheme around having him drop back into pass coverage too often. Having him one on one with, for example, Jason Witten would be a recipe for disaster. But, as Jim Haslett said the other day, any mistakes he makes are at 100 miles per hour and he should get better as the years go on.
What can you say? At age 36 he is still rolling along, playing three downs, calling the signals and leading the defense. He will be playing in his 209th consecutive game and starting his 168th in a row.
His conversion from 4-3 outside backer to an inside spot in the 3-4 was not as smooth as the Redskins would have liked but it’s hard to see how anything much better could have been expected. McIntosh isn’t built for the more physical nature of playing in the middle of the field. It was thought that he would sign with a team that runs a 4-3 but he ended up back in Washington on a one-year deal. McIntosh will being the season as the starter but may be pushed by Perry Riley at some point during the year.
The lockout probably hurt Riley as much as anyone. In a normal offseason, the Redskins may well have let McIntosh leave as a free agent and give the starting inside linebacker job to Riley. But he demonstrated in training camp that he still has to learn more, knowledge he could have gained during OTA’s and in extra time at Redskins Park. As noted above, he could well get his chance to unseat McIntosh as the starter as the year goes on.
Less than a week after he arrived, he was filling in for Fletcher calling the defensive signals. The former Steeler had some familiarity with the scheme but his ability to pick up the Redskins terminology so quickly was impressive. Fox will contribute on special teams and will be a solid option off of the bench if needed.
After starting most of the year a right outside linebacker, Alexander will return to his noted “One-Man Gang” role. He is the special teams captain and will work in some packages at both inside and outside backer after adding the inside position to his resume in training camp.
He has progressed well as he made the transition from 4-3 pass rushing end to outside linebacker. Jackson clinched his spot on the roster by playing well against the Bucs in the preseason finale, getting a sack and forcing a fumble that set up a Redskins touchdown. It is likely that he will see most of his action on special teams early in the year.
The seventh-round pick made a speedy transition from end at Florida State to linebacker for the Redskins. He has all of the physical tools to play the position and it will be interesting to see how he develops. It is possible that he will be inactive during the early part of the year but he will battle Jackson for playing time as the year goes on.