Position series: Redskins linebackers

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
9:55
AM ET
We are, as I'm sure you could tell, in a bit of a slow period for news here in the NFC East. So I thought it might be a good time of year to take a position-by-position look at the teams in our division. I don't have a set schedule in mind, and it may not be possible to do it every day, but my goal is to pick one position each day and break down the way each of our four teams looks at that position. So today I've picked linebackers, and we'll start with the Washington Redskins.

Projected starters: OLB Brian Orakpo, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, ILB London Fletcher, ILB Perry Riley

Reserves: Rob Jackson, Lorenzo Alexander, Keenan Robinson, Jonathan Goff, Markus White, Chris Wilson, Bryan Kehl

[+] EnlargeBrian Orakpo
Howard Smith/US PresswireBrian Orakpo (98) lead the Redskins with 9.0 sacks last season.
Potential strengths: The Redskins' hope is that Orakpo and Kerrigan are in the process of developing into one of the more formidable pass-rushing duos in the league. They've each shown that ability so far in their relatively brief careers, but the key is for each of them to take the next step. Some say Orakpo needs to develop another move. Kerrigan needs to refine his all-around game as he heads into his second season. The defense is set up to allow the two of them to take advantage of the opportunity to pile up sacks, and they will look to improve on the 16.5 for which they combined in 2011.

Potential weaknesses: Under Fletcher's guidance and tutelage, Riley last year looked like someone who could be a legitimate long-term answer at the inside linebacker position. He needs to demonstrate more consistency, or else the Redskins could turn to someone like Goff or the rookie Robinson. As brilliant and apparently indestructible as Fletcher is, he did just turn 37, and there remains a slim chance that his play could tail off at some point in the near future. The Redskins picked Robinson thinking he could be the Fletcher replacement down the road, and they signed Goff thinking he could fill in on the inside in case of injury. But if there is an unforeseen issue with either starting inside linebacker, any possible replacement at this point comes with serious question marks. Alexander is working with the inside 'backers in an effort to develop into an all-around utility player, but he's still learning.

Keep an eye on: Goff. He was slated to be the Giants' starting middle linebacker at this point last year and he has plenty of experience as an NFL starter. But like many of the 2011 Giants, he is coming off of a torn ACL, and the Redskins don't know yet what they'll be able to get from him. If he's fully healthy, he could be a major asset as a veteran presence in a reserve role. He's still only 26 years old, so if an injury or something else happened to present him with an opportunity, he could write himself a nice comeback story.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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