Currently the Washington Redskins have six options at outside linebacker and are likely to keep at least 4. Though their starters are fairly set, Orakpo is coming off a big injury, so depth is very much important. 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.
Brian Orakpo proved once and for all that he was an elite pass rusher last year, by not even being on the field for most of the year. The Redskins desperately missed Orakpo last year, and the impact he brought to the entire defense. He doesn’t get the same volume of sacks as some other top pass rushers, but he was among the league’s best of all 4-3 DE’s and 3-4 OLB’s in 2011 among pressures pass rush snap. Also missing for the Redskins last year was the number of penalties Orakpo caused the other team to commit, giving the defense free yardage. Orakpo is coming back from a serious injury, so there is some slight concern, but he will have had almost a full year to recover so it is hopeful that he makes a full recovery and is ready to terrorize opposing quarterbacks once again next year.
This was a tough one to rank for me as he’s between Tier 1 and Tier 2. Overall Kerrigan has been very productive for his first two years in the league. Despite that, last year proved that there is a sizable gap between him and Brian Orakpo overall. With Orakpo injured, Kerrigan went cold for a number of weeks, and didn’t have the same level of overall impact on the defense. That being said for his specific role as a Left Outside linebacker, he’s one of the better ones in the league. I expect Kerrigan to continue to grow into his third year and prove he’s worthy of this spot.
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.
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.
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.
-Jackson was the primary replacement for Orakpo last year and the results were mixed. On one had he was an upgrade in coverage and came up with some crucial interceptions. On the flip side he was a major liability as a pass rusher, frequently being subbed out for other players. While it is all well and good that Jackson was good in coverage, he failed at the number one part of his job description. It would be like having an offensive tackle who was only a good pass blocker on screens, but struggled the rest of the time. Further complicating Jackson’s case for being higher ranked is the fact that he is suspended for the first four games next season, which further diminishes his value.
-Tapp has shown himself to be an okay depth defensive end who is solid versus the run and offers a little pass rush. The real question is can he transition to a rush linebacker role. When Pete Carroll came to Seattle he passed over Tapp as a defensive end option because he lacked quickness for his scheme. The Eagles are also expected to be more of a 3-4 team this year, yet they showed little interest in Tapp. Rushing the passer with his hand down Tapp should be fine, but how he handles coverage situations will be very interesting.
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.
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.
-Elmore was a highly productive defensive end in college, who was converted to a rush linebacker when the Packers drafted him in the 6th round in 2011. He didn’t make it through camp and has bounced around various practice squads ever since. There is little chance of him making the squad, and may not even be a practice squad option.
-So’oto was an undrafted rookie out of BYU by the Packers in 2011. He saw 88 snaps worth after a promising preseason, but couldn’t follow it up in 2012. An ankle injury limited him during the year and he bounced around to a number of teams. At this point much shouldn’t be expected out of him.
What do you think? How would you rank the Redskins outside linebacker options? And do you think they should look to upgrade?