Currently the Washington Redskins have five options at inside linebacker and are likely to keep 4. Though their starters are fairly set, both are free agents after next season, so opportunity is there for the guys behind them if they can show enough potential. Depth is an issue as London Fletcher started showing serious signs of age last season. Here is how they rank, including predictions for where they end-up. Tiers are based off of what their expected value is for 2013, due to a combination of past production and likely potential. Overall potential, or contract status is not really taken into account.
Description: Top level starter, at elite or near elite level, absolute lock to both make the team and start. Won’t face any competition for his job.
Description: Quality starter who may have some minor struggles in a given year, but overall is a good football player. Should both easily make the team and start.
-This is a bit bullish of a ranking for Riley as his play hasn’t been that great, and is more in the average camp. Despite that Riley is young and healthy, and has seen his play get better every season. If that trend continues then I believe Riley can reach low Tier 2 status. He’s got nice range, and decent versatility as he can rush the passer and defend the run. Coverage is still an issue, though he is better than Fletcher in this department. In all facets of the game he needs to display better instincts and awareness to put him in a better position to make plays.
Description: Passable starter, can play the position and be okay, but won’t consistently play at a high level. Will be streaky throughout the season and over the course of many seasons. Depending on position would be better served as a good role player, or would be the best reserve player at a position. Should make the team, though not a lock and should face competition for a starting job.
-Fletcher is still the heart and soul of this defense, but his play last year dropped off considerably. It was better in the 2nd half of the year, but in the first half of the season he really struggled. Though he still showed his tremendous instincts and awareness, he was late getting to the ball. He really struggled the most in pass coverage where a number of tight ends gave him trouble last season. He did finish the season better, but he was still down from his previous year’s play. It’s likely that he’s become more of a two down linebacker, and could need to be subbed out a bit more this season.
Description: Replacement level starter. This is a guy who could start in a pinch or as a long-term injury replacement but will max out as an average starter, and will probably be below average. He’s a guy who could be okay as a short term filler, but over an extended period will struggle. Depending on position could be a solid player, or would be a good back-up. Has a decent chance to make the team, and could get a look at a starting job, but nothing is set in stone for him.
-Robinson was the Redskins 4th round pick this past year after a highly productive Texas career. He played a lot on special teams but also got about 70 snaps on defense this past year, before getting injured on Thanksgiving day against Dallas. Robinson in his limited work showed nice coverage ability, and could be in line for an expanded role this season. The big question mark will be how he comes back from his torn pectoral injury. He’s likely to be the Redskins primary ILB back-up and should get some snaps each game.
Description: Solid back-up caliber player. Shouldn’t really ever start, and would be below average in that capacity, but can be a short term injury replacement. Shouldn’t even be much of a role player depending on the position, their best value is in their reliability as a replacement. Depending on the position, should be capable of backing up multiple positions or roles to increase their value. Has a chance to make the team, but really shouldn’t be considered a starting option at all.
Kehl signed with the Washington Redskins last April after starting his career with the Giants and Rams. He had a solid camp/preseason, but the team couldn’t find a roster spot for him. He was picked up by the Chiefs in October, but was waived a month later. The Redskins picked him up again in late November after Robinson went down. He got a little work, but saw most of his action on special teams, which is a strength of his. The Redskins re-signed him this offseason after losing Lorenzo Alexander in free agency. Though he has some experience, Kehl isn’t much more than an emergency replacement for the Redskins. If asked to play for an extended period he’d likely get exposed. While special teams is his strength, he’s not on the same level as Lorenzo Alexander, so he will have to hold off the other competition in camp to secure a roster spot.
-Muckelroy is a former 4th round pick of the Bengals, after a productive college career at Texas. He showed early promise before an Achilles injury in Sept. 2011 wiped out his sophomore season. Though he was back for Training Camp last year he was definitely slowed by the injury, and was released with the final cuts. The Bengals brought him back early in the season, but used him only as a special teamer before releasing him again in November. The Redskins signed him to replace Keenan Robinson, but he didn’t get in on defense last year. This will be an interesting year to watch to see if he regained any of his speed/quickness he lost with the Achilles injury. He’s a longer shot to make it, but does have a slight chance to make the squad.
Description: Replacement level player. Not considered at all for a starting role, and isn’t even considered a viable back-up. Really only has a shot to make the team if injuries thin out the competition. Overall has a poor chance to make a roster, and is a player who will likely be replaced during the season.
What do you think? How would you rank the Redskins inside linebacker options? And do you think they should look to upgrade?