- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Continuing my look at the Redskins' 53-man roster, taking a look at each position group. This time: the linebackers.
Newcomers: Jordan, Hayward, Miller, Murphy
Where they’re better: They have more speed with Robinson in the lineup. It was noticeable this summer what sort of difference that made and it enables the Redskins to do different things in terms of blitzes and coverages. Robinson can take away certain routes with his size and speed. They also should be improved at outside linebacker when it comes to rushing the passer. Position coach Brian Baker worked with them on rush techniques more than anyone else has in a long time. That should help Orakpo and Kerrigan in particular. Those two are also helped by the presence of Jason Hatcher. Also, Murphy can rush and occasionally drop as well, though the latter is not a strength. But he provides a solid rush, especially when slanting inside. He’s a better overall linebacker than Jackson was and a stronger athlete so there’s better insurance should something happen to one of the starters. It also helps the inside linebackers that Kirk Olivadotti is in charge. Makes a big difference; Olivadotti is good at teaching techniques.
Where they’re worse: They lost Fletcher’s wisdom, though Robinson’s speed compensates. But Fletcher was a respected voice in the locker room and on the field and there’s no one at linebacker who really fills that void. Orakpo is a passionate guy, but his role will be about the same. Their depth was hurt when Darryl Sharpton was placed on injured reserve.
Overall: Robinson’s improvement will go a long way in determining the defensive success. He looked solid against the run this preseason, making smart reads and understanding where his help was. If he continues to play that well during the season the defense has a chance to be solid. It’s not all on him, but if he can be a consistent tackler, eliminate routes in the pass game, then it’ll be an improvement as Fletcher’s game was not the same last season. I do think Orakpo and Kerrigan have been set up to have good seasons: better coaching, more aggressive scheme. But just know that in a 3-4, you can’t rush both outside linebackers all the time. Not when they’re in their base front. Still, they have more flexibility and freedom to apply pressure.