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Redskins Post-Draft Roster Breakdown: Linebackers

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With the NFL Draft completed, Redskins.com is breaking down the team's roster as it prepares for the 2020 campaign. Here are the positions that have been covered so far:

Next up are the linebackers. The starting middle linebackers from last season, Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb, are both back, as are reserves Reuben Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

The Redskins also added a few linebackers during free agency, including three-time Pro Bowler Thomas Davis Sr., and drafted Khaleke Hudson in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.

It's also worth noting that Ryan Anderson, who played outside linebacker in the Redskins' 3-4 defense last season, is still listed as a linebacker as the Redskins move to a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

ROSTER SUBTRACTIONS:

  • None

KEY ADDITION(S):

  • Thomas Davis Sr.
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • Khaleke Hudson

THE LATEST:

As soon as the Redskins announced Del Rio as their defensive coordinator on Jan. 2, it was assumed he'd switch to a four-man front with three linebackers. Del Rio confirmed the change a few days later, and he and head coach Ron Rivera has been constructing the defense in the months since to match that structure.

Several linebackers were already under contract through the 2020 season. The lone starter was Holcomb, a 2019 fifth-round pick who appeared in all 16 games as a rookie and finished tied for second on the team with 105 tackles.

The third middle linebacker was the speedy Hamilton (49 tackles, one interception), while the fourth was the bulky Harvey-Clemons.

Foster, a 2017 first-round pick, missed the entire season after suffering a torn ACL during OTAs.

After signing former Panthers linebacker Jared Norris in February, the Redskins kicked off free agency in mid-march by re-signing Bostic to a multi-year deal.

Bostic appealed to the new coaching staff because of his leadership and popularity among teammates in addition to his production. After signing with the Redskins last May, the 29-year-old journeyman started all 16 games and recorded a career-high 105 total tackles. Rivera sees Bostic fitting in nicely in the middle of Del Rio's 4-3 defense.

"He was the MIKE linebacker for these guys for the most part," Rivera said of Bostic. "I believe he has the kind of tools to help lead that group."

Not long after the Bostic news, the Redskins added the 37-year-old Davis. Rivera needed a player who understood the culture he was trying to instill with the Redskins, and Davis spent eight seasons under Rivera in Carolina and made three Pro Bowls during that stretch.

Plus, Davis is still performing at a high level; he started every game last season with the Chargers and led the team in tackles.

"I thought he'd come in and help out with a little bit of that veteran leadership on the defensive side. They are a very young group of guys," Rivera said of Davis. "But 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."

Rounding out the position group are Pierre-Louis, a seventh-year reserve linebacker who can also help on special teams, and Hudson, a do-it-all playmaker out of Michigan.

"He's a kid that we really feel is a dynamic, dynamic player," Rivera said of Hudson. "He's very athletic, and he's going to be a special teams ace for us."

WHAT TO WATCH:

Linebacker is a fascinating position for the Redskins for several reasons. Not only will there be an extra linebacker on the field as a part of the 4-3 defense, but there are several viable starter combinations.

One option would be to have Bostic at middle linebacker, Davis on the weak side and Holcomb on the strong side. However, Anderson should also challenge for the strong-side spot. The 2017 second-round pick emerged as a defensive playmaker towards the end of 2019, racking up seven quarterback hits, four sacks and four forced fumbles over the final six games.

When asked about a player poised to have a breakout season, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen highlighted his former Alabama teammate.

"I think it will be Ryan Anderson this year. I genuinely believe that," Allen said on The Kevin Sheehan Show on May 1. "He's been working really hard, and I really think with this scheme, which is really going to help highlight his attributes and his skillset, I really think Ryan Anderson is going to have a really standout year for us."

The other variable is the status of Foster. If fully healthy, Foster has the size (6-foot-1, 228 pounds) and athleticism to thrive as a weak-side linebacker. But there's still no timetable for his return.

Overall, the Redskins have 10 linebackers on the roster with varying skillsets. That's a good problem to have, especially considering Rivera and Del Rio are former NFL linebackers who know how to best utilize players at that position.

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