- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rocky McIntosh always has been the other linebacker for the Washington Redskins.

McIntosh played the past two seasons, his first ones as a starter, with a former Pro Bowl pick in Marcus Washington and the NFL’s top tackler of the past decade in London Fletcher.

Washington departed after last season, only to be replaced by a flashy first-round draft choice, Brian Orakpo.

McIntosh, naturally, remained an afterthought.

Asked on Wednesday about the Redskins defense he’ll face on Sunday, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford reeled off the names of five Redskins players and praised their cornerbacks.

McIntosh went unmentioned even though he ranks third on the Redskins with 11 tackles in the first two games of the season after finishing second in the category the previous season and third in 2007.

“Rocky’s playing lights-out football,” defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said. “He plays with passion. He plays the first play and the last play the same way because he knows you never know which play is going to make the difference.”

McIntosh did his best to make a difference in the Redskins’ 9-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

On the Rams’ second series, McIntosh popped running back Kenneth Darby, jarring the ball loose. Defensive end Andre Carter recovered at the St. Louis 17 - a big play nullified by a penalty on Orakpo for roughing the passer.

Linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti was pleased that the 6-foot-2, 238-pound McIntosh was going for the man, not the ball.

“Rocky gets ‘em the old-fashioned way - by heavy contact,” Olivadotti said. “Guys that get ‘em that way are good tacklers. They’re just not tackling the football.”

Five plays later, McIntosh hit scrambling quarterback Marc Bulger, who fumbled. Mark Setterstrom recovered for the Rams, leaving McIntosh with nothing to show for two solid plays - and no reason for the average fan to take notice.

“What Rocky does [is] taken for granted,” Olivadotti said. “Taking out a fullback, dropping to a landmark and then coming up and making a sure tackle. There’s nothing really sexy about it until you miss it.”

McIntosh ripped up a knee on Dec. 16, 2007, at Giants Stadium and missed the final two games of the regular season and the wild-card playoff contest. He returned for the start of training camp last season and didn’t miss a game.

Now, more than a year removed from reconstructive surgery, the 26-year-old South Carolinian is playing as well as he ever has. He finished second to Fletcher in tackles in 2007 and 2008 and forced five fumbles.

“I’m definitely a force out there,” the normally reticent McIntosh said.

He’s also beginning to assert himself as a personality on the field - “talking a lot of smack,” in Fletcher’s words - like so many other former University of Miami players.

“He’s much better at getting himself aligned and understanding where he fits in the defense,” Olivadotti said. “That’s the biggest difference in Rocky from two, three years ago and today. I’ve always heard that guys are better in their second year after knee surgery. I don’t know, but he’s got his stinger back. He always plays physical. We know what to expect from Rocky. He’s playing at a high level.”

The Redskins ranked among the top 10 defenses in the league the past two years but finished 31st in 2006, when McIntosh played backup as a rookie.

That might be just coincidence, but Fletcher calls McIntosh “one of the staples of what we do.”

The question is whether McIntosh will be doing his thing for Washington come 2010: He is due to become a free agent in March.

“It will definitely help if I play good, but it’s for someone else to decide [what I’m worth],” McIntosh said. “I’m not really worried about it. It’s too far down the road. I would definitely love to stay here… but if the opportunity opens for me to go somewhere else, I’ll definitely take it.”

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