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Redskins' Roster Review: Outside Linebackers

Posted Apr 5, 2013

With offseason workouts beginning next week at Redskins Park, Redskins.com’s Brian Tinsman takes a look at the team’s strengths and offers storylines to watch. Up next: outside linebackers.

With offseason workouts beginning next week at Redskins Park, Redskins.com’s Brian Tinsman takes a look at the team’s strengths and offers storylines to watch. Up next: outside linebackers.

Heading into last season, the Redskins knew they had one Pro Bowl-caliber outside linebacker in Brian Orakpo.

After a stellar sophomore campaign by Ryan Kerrigan, they now have the bookend pass rushers every defense is looking for. The only challenge moving forward is ensuring both stay healthy.

The Redskins got early production from the pair last season, as they combined for three sacks in the first two games.

Unfortunately, it was in Week 2 that Brian Orakpo re-tore his injured pectoral muscle, originally suffered in Week 17, 2011. He was placed on injured reserve the next day.

Kerrigan initially struggled in Orakpo’s absence, recording just 1.5 sacks over the next five weeks, as offenses were able to key on his attack.

Redskins coaches rotated reserve linebackers Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson on the blindside rush, and ultimately gave the starting job to Jackson.

Jackson seized the opportunity for consistent playing time, snagging two interceptions, a touchdown and a half-sack leading into the team’s bye week.

The Redskins got a consistent pass rush back after the bye week, with Jackson and Kerrigan combining for eight sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.

Ultimately, Kerrigan represented the defense at the 2013 Pro Bowl, capping off a stellar sophomore season in Aloha Stadium.

With Kerrigan, Jackson, Brian Orakpo and newcomer veteran Darryl Tapp expected to be in the mix this season, the Redskins should have an upgrade at outside linebacker.

Improved health and experience should yield better results.

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PERSONNEL LANDSCAPE

Redskins’ outside linebackers currently under contract for next season: Kerrigan, Orakpo, Jackson, Tapp, Vic So’oto, Ricky Elmore.

Players no longer on the roster: Chris Wilson.

Ryan Kerrigan improved a full sack over his rookie numbers last season, and leads the Redskins’ defense in sacks since arriving in 2011.

He will look for a strong encore to his Pro Bowl performance last season, freely acknowledging at the end of last season that he has work to do to improve.

For the second-consecutive offseason, the concern with the outside linebacker unit lies in Brian Orakpo’s pectoral muscle.

Originally torn in 2011, he nursed the injury through last offseason, tweaking it again in the preseason game against the Chicago Bears before tearing it fully in Week 2.

If healthy, Orakpo will regain his starting spot across from Ryan Kerrigan on the line of scrimmage.

Returning after his breakout season, Rob Jackson provides quality depth for both Kerrigan and Orakpo, despite his four-game league suspension to start the 2013 season.

Jackson is a good edge rusher, but showed real value in pass coverage last season, intercepting four passes in 15 games and scoring a defensive touchdown. His ball skills give the defense an added element.

Darryl Tapp is a newcomer to Washington, joining the squad after three years in Philadelphia. Given Orakpo’s return and Jackson’s unavailability for the first four games, Tapp should provide depth and a contingency plan for Orakpo and Kerrigan.

It remains to see how Ricky Elmore will contribute to the mix, after signing an offseason contract with the team.

A former sixth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2011, Elmore has also spent time on the San Diego Chargers roster.

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NFL Outside Linebackers Available In Free Agency

As of April 8, 2013; names listed are in no particular order:

--James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers: Only two years removed from Pro Bowl status, Harrison was cut by the Steelers this offseason, in large part to clear room under the salary cap. Even at 35, Harrison is still an exceptional playmaker, collecting six sacks in 13 games last season, adding two forced fumbles in the backfield. He will be looking for a starting job, but would be exceptional depth if still available when the season rolls around.

--Shaun Phillips, San Diego Chargers: Phillips is another aging star on the free agent market, but still has a lot left in the tank. At 32, Phillips still tallied 9.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, showing that he is still a dominant playmaker. He won’t be cheap, but he should be worth it.

--Chris Wilson, Washington Redskins: Wilson has defied the odds twice in his career, once coming to the NFL from the Canadian Football League and once from a year out of professional football. While he was unable to seize the starting job last year, he appeared in all 16 games on special teams and knows his way around the facility.

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Collegiate Offensive Tackles Available In The Draft

As of April 8, 2013; names listed are in no particular order:

-- Alex Okafor, Texas: At 6-4, 264 pounds, Okafor has ideal size to make the transition from Texas defensive end to NFL outside linebacker, much as Orakpo did before him. While he had an up and down senior year at Texas, he finished on an emphatic note in the bowl game, sacking the Oregon St. quarterback 4.5 times. Should be available in the second round.

--Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: A former backup to Von Miller at College Station, Moore has star qualities, but workout concerns that might cause him to tumble. He may not be the fastest guy on the field, but scouts say he has good instincts and a nose for the ball. Should be available in the middle rounds.

-- Sio Moore, Connecticut: Moore may be small (6-1, 245 pounds) and come from a smaller football school, but he plays much bigger than his frame suggests. The native Liberian did not play football until moving to the United States in high school, and has the potential to gain size and ability with time. More of a project pick, Moore should be available in the middle rounds.


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