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“We drafted Keenan obviously for a reason, a purpose in mind. It was obviously just kind of like Perry, to groom him to be ready to play some day,” Haslett said. “That position is a hard position to learn because obviously you’re running the whole front, you’re running the back end, you’re telling everybody what to do. There’s a lot of learning to it. [And] he’s really, really smart.”

Robinson, 23, has been smart enough to learn from Fletcher. Things like how to watch film, how to prepare for games and how to diagnose plays are becoming second-nature because of his teaching.

“He’s a guy that prepares really well. He knows what’s going to happen before the snap,” Robinson said. “He’s a guy that kind of teaches me, ‘Zo and Perry the little things to look for in order to be able to have a key to what the offense will do before they line up or before the snap. Knowing is half the battle, and then doing it — just reacting — helps you play quicker as a linebacker.”

Robinson and Riley can adapt quicker to increased roles because of Fletcher, who in 15 years has played what is essentially “three lifetimes” in the NFL, Wilson said.

In the short term, Alexander is expected to start and take Fletcher’s place if Fletcher’s unable to play. Even that is not an easy adjustment and can lead to a drop-off.

“There is in the sense of his experience and his ability to call out plays and some of the things that he’s able to do that you only get playing 15 years in the league,” Alexander said. “But there’s no drop-off as far as run fits, making plays in that sense. I think from a mental side there’s a slight drop-off. But I can’t make up 15 years.”

Robinson and Riley can’t right away, either. The Redskins could go out and find a replacement for Fletcher in free agency. But given the franchise’s recent track record with high-profile signings, preparing a home-grown successor might be the best solution.

Whether they already have those guys in Robinson and Riley remains to be seen.

“Well, we’ll find out when they get their opportunity to play. Whenever a guy goes down, somebody else gets an opportunity to show us what he can do,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “We’ll wait and see.”

That time is coming, sooner or later. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for anyone to envision the next generation of the Redskins‘ defense without Fletcher.

“It’s really hard to even say. He’s an extremely important part: he’s a leader,” Cofield said.