Redskins Training Camp Preview: Inside Linebacker
ON THE ROSTER: Nick Barnett, Marvin Burdette, William Compton, London Fletcher, Bryan Kehl, Jeremy Kimbrough, Roddrick Muckelroy, Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson*,
STARTER: London Fletcher, Perry Riley
BACKUP: Nick Barnett, Bryan Kehl
ON THE BUBBLE: Marvin Burdette, William Compton, Jeremy Kimbrough, Roddrick Muckelroy
ANALYSIS: Fletcher and Riley have the starting jobs locked up, barring injury. Fletcher had the worst season of his career last year, probably, at least partially, due to nagging injuries. Nevertheless, the Redskins need Fletcher to play better this year and starting off healthy — as he is now — and staying that way would be a big help. Of course, at Fletcher’s age , staying healthy is critical and increasingly difficult. Fletcher missed 24 tackles last year, one of the worst numbers in the league, against only 39 stops — not a good ratio. Fletcher had a lot of trouble in pass coverage, particularly against the Falcons and Giants, but he also, surprisingly, struggled stopping the run.
Riley started off 2012 playing very well and was the team’s best defender through the first half of the season. However, Riley tailed off badly in November and December, apart from a terrific performance in week 16 in Philadelphia. He was solid in pass coverage most of the year, but struggled some against the run in the latter games. However, he did miss only 9 tackles compared to 45 stops, much more like the ratio you need to get from a starting inside linebacker. If he can stay healthy, expect Riley to be the team’s top inside linebacker all year. He’s not a superstar, but he’s a very solid starter who will probably be the leader of the defense in a year or two.
Barnett was recently signed to back up, something that became necessary after Keenan Robinson suffered his second torn pectoral muscle in less than one calendar year. Barnett is smart and experienced and has played a ton of games in the NFL. He’s familiar with the 3-4 defense and should have on trouble adjusting to Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett‘s system. Barnett should have no trouble stepping in and starting if Fletcher or Riley suffer an injury. Bryan Kehl has been in the NFL since 2008, spending three years with the NY Giants and two with the St. Louis Rams before coming to the Redskins in 2012 and playing five games. He’s been a career backup and should probably stay that way, but he’s been working on calling out plays in training camp and has become a solid special teams player.
Selected in the fourth round in 2010 by the Cincinnati Bengals, Roddrick Muckelroy might have had a promising future with the team, but he ruptured his Achilles Tendon on the first day of the 2011 training camp, ending his season. He signed with the Redskins well into the 2012 season, but seems to have caught on nicely. He will have to battle hard for his spot, but he’s got NFL experience and appears to be fully recovered from his injury.
PREDICTION: Fletcher and Riley win the starting jobs again, of course. Barnett and Kehl will back up, with Muckelroy as the best bet among the rest to make the team.