Wednesday: Linebackers | Thursday: Offensive line
The fourth of a nine-part series previewing the Washington Redskins heading into the July 30 opening of training camp.
Who’s back: Starters London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh and reserves H.B. Blades and Alfred Fincher. Backup Chris Wilson moves from defensive end.
Who’s new: First-round draft pick Brian Orakpo, second-day picks Cody Glenn and Robert Henson, veteran Robert Thomas and rookie free agent Darrel Young.
2008 review: Fletcher started every game, and McIntosh came back from knee surgery to play in every game. Marcus Washington struggled with health and performance and was released. But like the rest of the Redskins, the linebacking play slipped in December. The Redskins allowed 4.1 yards a carry in the final seven games.
Offseason review: The Redskins quickly identified Orakpo as an ideal strongside linebacker/pass rusher and were fortunate he was on the board at No. 13. They added young depth with Glenn and Henson, avoiding other positions. Thomas has 39 career starts but is primarily a weakside linebacker.
1. Is starting Orakpo at a new position too much to ask? It could be a tall order for Orakpo, who was primarily a defensive end with his hand on the ground at Texas. Now he has to learn a new position, one that will require him to cover tight ends and pursue at different angles. Where he could make his biggest mark is as a situational pass rusher; all indications are that he’s prepared to contribute right away in that role.
2. Will Fletcher ever start to show signs of slowing down? The middle linebacker enters the year with 135 consecutive starts, fifth on the active list, and was again a tackling machine in 2008 with 133. The Redskins should take steps starting in training camp of limiting the wear and tear on the 34-year-old Fletcher. He needs limited practice reps to get ready for Sundays.
3. Should anything be expected from rookies Glenn and Henson? Only on special teams, where the Redskins must replace standouts like Khary Campbell. Glenn (6-foot, 240 pounds) doesn’t have a lot of experience at weakside linebacker so expect him to get a crash course. Henson (6-0, 242) will have to work to make the team. Both rookies are playing behind several players with experience in the system.
2 Combined takeaways by the Redskins’ linebackers in 2008.
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