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Keep An Eye On the New Linebacker Corps

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So far in 2007, there has been a lot of focus on the Sean Taylor-LaRon Landry pairing in the Redskins' revamped secondary.

There ought to be just as much as focus on the new starting linebackers--Rocky McIntosh, London Fletcher and Marcus Washington.

Linebackers always play a significant role in Gregg Williams' defense, from covering tight ends and running backs to rushing the quarterback.

McIntosh, Fletcher and Washington will certainly be catalysts for a Redskins defense that finished last season ranked 31st in the NFL.

At the center of it is newcomer London Fletcher. Ever since he joined the Redskins last March, Fletcher has been asked questions about how he'll be able to help rejuvenate the NFL's 31st ranked defense.

Basically, Fletcher says, the slate needs to be swept clean.

"What I'm looking forward to," Fletcher said, "is coming out here and helping the Redskins be the best defense and the best team possible."

Fletcher will get his first opportunity on Saturday night in Nashville, when the Redskins take on the Tennessee Titans at 8 p.m. ET.

The team's most significant off-season addition will call the shots for a defense that features an entire new look at linebacker, with Fletcher in the middle and Marcus Washington and Rocky McIntosh on his flanks.

Fletcher wasn't around FedExField last year on Week 6 when Tennessee showed up at 0-5 but rallied in the second half to stun the Redskins 25-22 behind the talents of rookie quarterback Vince Young.

Washington was, and in fact he led the Redskins' defense with 13 tackles.

The 6-3, 247-pound Washington is expected to be employed in more of pass-rushing mode in 2007.

It's a challenge, he says. He'll need to focus in on the defensive calls more.

"I haven't played defensive line in a while, but it's coming along," Washington said. "The veteran guys on the defensive line have been working with me. Normally, when you're rushing the passer, it is all about effort and want-to."

Asked about Saturday's preseason game, Washington said: "We're anxious. We're ready to get out there and see what we have."

What they have in McIntosh is a second-year player who worked very hard in the offseason and a player who hopes all of that hard work pays dividends in 2007.

Gregg Williams has said he believes the young linebacker really has a chance to blossom in his second season. He's called McIntosh the team's top off-season worker this side of quarterback Jason Campbell.

Williams had all sorts of complimentary things to say about McIntosh, the 6-2, 227-pound Miami product who showed bursts of talent late in 2006.

Added Williams: "The things I thought Rocky had hesitancy with last year, such as the coverage elements, he has more than made up for with that in his understanding of the game."

With an increased understanding of the defensive scheme, McIntosh should be a major contributor to the linebacker corps.

"I'm lot more comfortable out there," McIntosh said. "I have those big guys around me, and I feel great with London [Fletcher] and with Marcus [Washington] coming back. It just makes me feel a lot more confident."

Redskin coaches hope that confidence grows this preseason, beginning Saturday night when the Fletcher-Washington-McIntosh plan gets its first test.

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