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Fletcher Comfortable As QB Of the Defense


London Fletcher lined up in the middle of the Redskins' defense on Saturday night, staring across at his former Buffalo teammates.

Fletcher last played with the Bills just two years ago, but to him it seemed a lot longer.

In his first season in Washington, Fletcher experienced a range of emotions that most players experience in a career: last-second losses, the tragic death of Sean Taylor, and then a thrilling four-game win streak to earn a playoff bid.

"It does seem like I have been here for at least two seasons," he said. "Last year it seemed like basically two seasons because of the way things worked out.

"This year I feel obviously more comfortable with my teammates and more comfortable with my role on the defense from a leadership standpoint on this team."

Fletcher has fit right in with the Redskins' defense--as well as the defensive philosophy.

He remains an important cog in the middle of the Redskins' defense.

Defensive ends Jason Taylor and Andre Carter are primarily regarded as elite pass-rushers, so offenses could try to run directly at them. They'll need to funnel running backs to the middle, where Fletcher makes a living off recording tackles.

Fletcher is also wearing the new helmet communication device, giving him a line to defensive coordinator Greg Blache before plays.

As the so-called quarterback of the Redskins' defense, Fletcher is a player who must be accounted for if you happen to be an opposing offensive coordinator.

On Saturday night at FedExField against the Bills, Fletcher saw his first action of preseason, playing two series with the first-team defense. He had two tackles in the game.

The first-team defense as a whole allowed just one first down and 26 yards in two series. The Redskins yielded a field goal, but the Bills started with great field position after Marcus Mason fumbled on the opening kickoff.

Fletcher witnessed a Redskins offseason that had minimal change, particularly on defense. Jason Taylor is a newcomer in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, replacing the injured Phillip Daniels.

Otherwise, the Redskins return the entire defensive starting unit from last season's playoff run.

"I see us getting better because we are another year together," Fletcher said. "We have some young guys that played key positions for us last year. They have more experience and they are coming into their own.

"We have added a few more guys to the mix and I think the sky is the limit for us from a defensive standpoint. We did some good things last year, but I see us wanting more from ourselves."

Head coach Jim Zorn has not been around Fletcher for long, but he admires his determination.

"What I like about London is that he totally enjoys the game and when he's on the field he has this knack of turning this grit on," Zorn said. "He just pulls everybody up with him. He is a big man when it comes to his attitude about playing the game, and I think our players really respect him and respond to him."

Fletcher used his toughness to pile up a team-leading 164 tackles (98 solo) and three interceptions last season, including one returned for a touchdown against Arizona in a 21-19 win.

Fletcher was named a co-recipient of The Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year award for the 2007 season, joining safety Sean Taylor.

Fletcher has racked up more than 1,500 tackles in his career, including more than 1,000 solo tackles, and he had 14 interceptions on his resume entering 2008.

Despite the physical nature of the game, Fletcher has now started 119 consecutive NFL games, the third longest active streak behind linebackers Derrick Brooks of Tampa Bay (192) and Donnie Edwards (153) of Kansas City.

That's outstanding company for the player who has become something of a tackling machine for St. Louis, Buffalo and the Redskins.

Fletcher won a Super Bowl with St. Louis in 1999, but he has never been a Pro Bowl pick. He has been an alternate several times in the past, including last season.

Maybe this will be the year he breaks through.

"I feel good and ready to go," Fletcher said. "I'm excited."

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