Jack Del Rio was an NFL linebacker for a decade, so he knows better than many what it takes to build a successful position group.
So what is his evaluation of the Redskins' linebacker corps after five months on the job?
"I think what we have is an interesting mix," he said. "I am excited to get them on the field and let them compete. We have a blend."
The linebackers are going to be an important group under Del Rio and head coach Ron Rivera in their new 4-3 defense. In fact, Del Rio said they will be "essential" in tying all components of the scheme together. So, they have added more players to the position -- each with their own unique skillsets -- to compliment the talent already on the roster and create a multifaceted group.
"We are going to count on them playing well for us," Del Rio said.
The Redskins have acquired three new linebackers since Del Rio and Rivera arrived in Washington. The most recent was fifth-round pick Khaleke Hudson, who led Michigan's defense with 102 tackles as the starting "Viper". The other two are Thomas Davis Sr., who is entering his 15th season, and Kevin Pierre-Louis.
Pierre-Louis didn't play much in his one season with the Chicago Bears, but he had solid numbers in the final three games of the season, all of which he started. His 32 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception showed Del Rio that Pierre-Louis could have something to offer in his system.
"He is flying under the radar, no one really talks about him," Del Rio said. "We are excited about letting him go and seeing what he can do."
Pierre-Louis has never been coached by Del Rio in his career that spans five teams, but he did play at Boston College with Luke Kuechly, who spent the entirety of his eight-year career with Rivera, and he can vouch for Pierre-Louis' ability to learn new defenses.
"I think one of the things Kevin always talks about is being willing to work, and it's starting to pay off for him," Kuechly said of Pierre-Louis in 2011. "With Kevin's work ethic, it becomes that much easier for him to pick up on small things. He's always working, he's always thinking, he's critical of himself."
As for Hudson, his experience as a linebacker, safety and pass rusher give the coaches the opportunity to let him operate in space. Hudson views himself as a playmaker, though, so he doesn't care what his role is along as he can contribute.
"I'm going to do whatever I can, put the team on my back if I've got to if it's going to help my team come out with the win," he said after being drafted.
Outside of one season with the Los Angeles Chargers, Davis spent most of his career with Carolina and eight seasons with Rivera. Davis knows how Rivera likes to run his teams, which Rivera values just as much as Davis' production.
"I felt like there was a need for a guy that understands the culture that I wanted to develop up here," he said. "They are a very young group of guys. But more so, more importantly for me is a guy that can help share my ideas, what my belief in culture is, and I think that can help get the message across."
Davis doesn't know what his role is going to be with the Redskins, but he's willing to let the situation sort itself out.
"I'm going to do whatever is...being asked of me, and if I'm asked to play off a lot, I will be ready to go," Davis said. "I prepare hard, I work hard in the offseason and during the season to make sure that my body is ready to go. … Whatever is asked of me, I will be ready to do it."
The Redskins plan to match Davis with young players like Cole Holcomb, who Del Rio said "showed some real speed and linebacking ability" in his rookie season. Holcomb started in all but one game last year and was second on the team with 105 tackles.
And Holcomb's position versatility has already caught Rivera's attention.
"He did a little bit of that for the team. He played out in space a little bit, came back into the box and played as a box linebacker," Rivera said. "Those are the kind of guys that you want. You want that position flexibility. If you don't have to rotate a guy off the field if the guy can stay on the field, you can change your defense, your defensive philosophy and look almost instantaneously."
Another starter that Rivera and Del Rio were impressed with is Jon Bostic, who the team re-signed in March. He helped lead the defense last year, Rivera said, so he has already proven that he can be a pivotal piece for the team.
"I believe he has the kind of tools to help lead that group," Rivera said. He's a very popular player amongst his teammates, so there's a guy that's going to add some continued leadership."
Bostic believes he played well last year, but his numbers show that it was one of his best with career-highs in tackles (105) and quarterback hits (6). Although he has yet to experience a practice under the new coaching staff, he already feels like they're a good fit.
"The people on the outside might not exactly see it, but we're not far off," he told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael. "Some of these guys are going to fit the new scheme a lot better than...the last scheme. … I think with the change on defense, it's only going to help us."
Like many of the Redskins' position groups, the linebackers have undergone change to fit the team's new identity, which centers around versatility and competition. They have done so by adding players with a wide range of experience and skill.
There are nine linebackers currently on the roster, so competition is going to be key for the group to figure out where each of them will fall on the depth chart. That's exactly what Del Rio wants to see.
"We will let that play out."