Earlier this offseason, the Redskins.com staff reviewed the 2011 play of the outside linebackers and inside linebackers. With training camp set to begin later this week, it's time to preview the current state of the Redskins' linebackers.
The key to any 3-4 defense is the play of the linebackers, and the Redskins have assembled one of the most exciting units in the NFL.
After 2011, there was very little that the Redskins wanted to do to change this unit, and they accomplished that by retaining team captain London Fletcher.
With a new position coach and a strong mix of youth and experience, look for the linebackers to be the straw that stirs the drink on defense in 2012.
Inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh (free agent)
Inside linebacker Keyaron Fox (free agent).
Inside linebacker Keenan Robinson (draft)
Outside linebacker Chris Wilson (free agent)
Inside linebacker Brian Kehl (free agent)
Inside linebacker Jonathan Goff (free agent).
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
Last year, this unit combined for 519 tackles, 20 sacks and 14 turnovers. In Year 2 with Ryan Kerrigan and Perry Riley in the starting unit, those numbers should increase across the board.
With Riley and Fletcher patrolling the middle, the Redskins have a good combination of speed, consistency and football acumen. Fletcher is coming off a season in which he led the NFL in tackles.
Riley's speed and instincts were a boost on defense for the second half of the season, and he will continue to progress playing alongside one of the all-time greats.
In tandem rushers Brian Orakpo and Kerrigan, the Redskins have a young duo that will set the table for the rest of the defense. Not only can they account for sacks and forced fumbles at the line of scrimmage, but can also force errant downfield passes that lead to incompletions and turnovers in the secondary.
Linebacker depth should be improved this year, following the veteran additions of Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff. Both come from a 4-3 background, but figure to see playing time at inside linebacker and special teams.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Redskins got good value in Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson, who will have time to develop in reserve. With good size and speed, he could be the heir apparent, if London Fletcher ever decides to hang it up. In his rookie campaign, he should be looked to as an asset on special teams.
The Redskins also retained quality depth and special teams with Lorenzo Alexander, Rob Jackson, Markus White and the return of Chris Wilson.
Alexander led the Redskins in special teams tackles for each of the last two seasons, and was widely considered a 2011 Pro Bowl snub. Wilson, White and Jackson each come from the outside linebacker position, and will look to battle it out on special teams.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
With all four starters retained for the 2012 season, continuity should yield improved results. If each of the starters stays healthy and productive, team and individual accolades could be in order.
While none of the roster additions are expected to challenge for a starting job, the coaches have greatly improved the roster depth and competition for special teams and reserve roles.
With linebacker coach in Bob Slowik taking over for Lou Spanos, the scheme and technique could look slightly different in 2012.
With the talent this team has stockpiled at linebacker, expect better execution and improved results.