RICHMOND, Va. –- The Washington Redskins appear to be set at inside linebacker with Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson. That is, as long as Robinson plays in the preseason the way he’s played through the offseason and training camp. But this position remains an interesting one because of the backups. The Redskins likely will keep nine linebackers, so they’ll either keep four or five at this spot. Here’s how it’s shaping up:
Perry Riley: Not coming off his best season, and there was no doubt the Redskins wanted and needed better play inside. But the coaches have been pleased with Riley’s progress in camp, further entrenching him as a starter. Riley still needs to improve in zone coverage. But he has the speed they like – and need -- in order to combat Philadelphia.
Keenan Robinson: Has worked with the starting unit all offseason and that isn’t about to change. His ability to run is huge and it’s why he’s separated himself from the competition. Robinson has shown well against the run in terms of his fits. He and Riley both benefit from new inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. He places more emphasis on fundamentals and how to win rather than just what their assignment is on a particular play. It makes a difference. Robinson’s speed also gives them options when rushing the passer. He lines up at times next to rookie Trent Murphy, and I could see Robinson being an effective blitzer. He’s a smart kid. But he also needs to prove he can tackle. If he uses his speed to beat defenders to spots and forces linemen to come off double-teams faster, he’ll be good. But he still has something to prove.
Will Compton: Has been working with the second defense throughout camp. Compton is a smart player who adds a level of toughness and could also help on special teams. He understands the defense and knows where to be, something he showed last summer as well. Again, the question surrounds his ability to tackle in a game. The preseason will be big for him, but as of now, I’d be surprised if he didn’t stick around.
Darryl Sharpton: Has been working with the No. 2 defense as well. He’s a little undisciplined at times, but he can be a violent player and runs well enough for what they want to do. He’s not strong in coverage, though. But the speed emphasis is big for teams that like to spread and run (Eagles). He can play special teams as well.
Adam Hayward: He’s mostly a special-teams player, which is why he was signed in the first place. As a backup, he can fill in and not hurt them, but there’s really nothing special about him from scrimmage. Still, his ability to play special teams likely will result in a roster spot – unless the Redskins somehow only keep four inside linebackers. Then he’ll be in a little trouble.
Akeem Jordan: Has good experience, but has worked behind all the above players in camp. Only signed a one-year deal with a $65,000 bonus, so if he’s cut, there’s no big cost. The problem for him is that he’s only a two-down linebacker, coming out in passing situations last season in Kansas City. Andy Reid had him in Philadelphia and with the Chiefs, but let him walk as a free agent. Jordan can help on special teams, but he is not a lock, at all, to make the roster.
Jeremy Kimbrough: A little fireplug at 5-foot-10 who plays with a little pop. But it’s hard to see him doing enough to win a roster spot. Kimbrough is a second-year player from Appalachian State who tore his labrum and missed all of last season. But he doesn’t have the sort of speed the Redskins really want. He does have practice squad eligibility.