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Re-examining the Redskins' needs: ILB

4/21/2014

The Redskins entered the offseason with plenty of needs, which is why this feature spilled into a sixth day. The first five: safety, receiver, pass rusher, offensive line and cornerback. Next up: inside linebacker.

What they’ve done: Signed Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward and re-signed Perry Riley.

Problem solved: Can’t say that yet because neither Sharpton nor Jordan are signed for more than one season and they’re the ones competing for the job next to Riley. Hayward is a special teamer. So we don’t know who will be starting next to Riley, though Sharpton received an $820,000 bonus compared to $65,000 for Jordan. The math adds up for Sharpton. Nor do we know how they’ll fare in this defense. They have OK track records. However, I like the depth at this spot, especially when it comes to special teams.

Projected starters: Riley and Sharpton.

What needs to happen: Sharpton and/or Jordan have to tackle consistently and be productive against the run. That's the No. 1 job at this position in the coach's eyes. They don’t need to be playmakers -- it would be nice, but it's not who they have been. But the missed tackles hurt Washington last season. Jordan was a two-down player with Kansas City last season; Sharpton stayed in on passing downs, but it was not a strength. But both were fine against the run. Jordan showed good vision in tracking the ball, enabling him to make stops and his hand placement allowed him to shed blocks quickly. Sharpton was decisive and a couple times in games I watched beat blockers to the spot, or forced them to abandon double teams early. I didn't see any missed tackles, but the sample size was small. If the line does its job, these two will be fine. However, Sharpton has never played all 16 games and, in his four seasons, has played 12 or less three times because of various health issues. The Redskins also need Keenan Robinson to A) stay healthy and B) show he can be the player many anticipated before last training camp. No idea what to expect from him and I know the coaches have fingers crossed. He can help on pass downs, or the Redskins can use a variety of looks in their nickel packages, with either an extra corner or safety. Riley needs to return to his 2012 form and take a strong role in helping whoever is next to him call plays. He’s the experienced voice at this position and started expanding his role when London Fletcher could rarely practice late in the 2012 season.

Address in the draft: Sure. I wouldn’t be stunned if they opted for more help here, but I’m not sure they absolutely have to add someone, at least not in the second round. It could give them their long-term solution, which would be good, but I don’t know if they value this position enough over other positions they might seek more immediate help (like pass rusher or offensive tackle). They could always cut Jordan and only be out the bonus, so it’s not like they’re in love with his potential (but they do like him). Besides, even if he doesn’t start, his special teams play is needed. And Sharpton is only 26, so if he has a good year, then they can re-sign him. They also have Robinson as a potential long-term answer (albeit one with questions).

The last word: I’m really anxious to see Robinson this spring and summer. I know I’ve said this before, but several players in the past year have gushed about his potential. He’s an athletic player who was improving when he was hurt as a rookie. The problem is, after two pectoral injuries, there’s no way to know how that will impact his game. If he develops -- and he has the right coach for him in Kirk Olivadotti -- then the Redskins might have their guy for the future. It’s just too early to say if that’s the case.