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LB Kevin Pierre-Louis Came To Washington For An Opportunity. He's Making The Most Of It.

Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team
Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team

Kevin Pierre-Louis is not an accomplished veteran like Thomas Davis Sr., a young standout like Cole Holcomb or a former first-round pick like Reuben Foster.

But when the Washington Football Team took the field Tuesday for its first padded practice of training camp, it was Pierre-Louis playing alongside Jon Bostic with the starting defense.

After starting a combined four games over his first six NFL seasons, Pierre-Louis came to Washington for an opportunity to be more than a special teams standout. He's certainly making the most of it.

"He's extremely explosive," Davis said about Pierre-Louis. "He's fast, he's physical. He has all of the qualities, all of the tools. He's a guy that I could see in this defense making a ton of plays, and I'm excited to see KPL work. He's extremely humble. He's a guy who comes in every day, does his job. He's not afraid to ask questions and he's going to be a great piece for this defense."

A fourth-round pick in 2014, Pierre-Louis has shown flashes of his defensive potential throughout his professional career. In his first-career start in 2015 with Seattle, he recorded 11 tackles and broke up a pass against the Carolina Panthers, then led by Washington head coach Ron Rivera.

But from 2015-18, Pierre-Louis only played more than 50% of the defensive snaps in two games.

Pierre-Louis spent 2019 with the Chicago Bears -- his fourth franchise in as many seasons -- and he only recorded four tackles over the first 13 weeks. But then injuries ravaged the Bears' linebacker corps, thrusting him into a bigger role for the rest of the season. And during those final four games (three starts), Pierre-Louis stuffed the stat sheet with 28 total tackles (18 solo), three pass breakups, two tackles for loss and an interception.

His late-season surge prompted Washington to sign him to a one-year deal this offseason, and the new coaching staff likes what they've seen from the 28-year-old journeyman.

"He's come in and he's been as advertised in terms of showing how explosive he is. He's showing us his ability to be in the right place at the right time," Rivera said on "The Kevin Sheehan Show" on Aug. 14. "He's been exciting to watch."

Pierre-Louis, who has played strongside linebacker and dime linebacker during training camp, described himself as an explosive linebacker with "quick-twitch speed" who has a knack for getting to the ball. He's used that skillset to stand out among a crowded linebacker room.

When Pierre-Louis was in Seattle, he approached Davis after a game to let him know how much he appreciated Davis' game and how much he paid attention to it. Pierre-Louis also mentioned Foster's physicality, Holcomb's combination of power and speed and Bostic's physical, downfield playing style. He even commented on fifth-round rookie Khaleke Hudson, who like Pierre-Louis is not the biggest linebacker but plays with heart and passion.

Despite having a constant rotation during practice, Pierre-Louis has seen a lot of continuity between all of the linebackers. Now it's about fine-tuning the details of the position and the defensive scheme.

"With the defense that we're running where everybody needs to be in a certain place, if I'm out of a gap trying to make a play, I can't leave one of my teammates and hang them out to dry," Pierre-Louis said. "So, this is just why we're in camp right now, to iron out the small details, to make sure we all know where we need to be and keep focusing on that."

Between the coaching staff and the defensive front, Pierre-Louis believes him and the other linebackers are in an optimal position to succeed.

Not only has the group learned from linebackers coach Steve Russ, but defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and Rivera are both former NFL linebackers and respected defensive minds. Pierre-Louis likes Del Rio's defense because he promotes speed, physicality, and, above all, making plays. And with a defensive line with five former first-rounders, that becomes a lot easier. They're taking on double teams and holding up blockers, allowing second-level defenders to flow to the ball unimpeded.

"If there's a linebacker that's making a ton of plays," Pierre-Louis said, "nine times out of 10 he has a great defensive line in front of him."

Once the defensive line does its job, Pierre-Louis said it's all about the linebackers capitalizing on the opportunity. So far, he's been doing a lot of that in Washington.

"When the environment is set up for you to succeed, now at the end of the day it's all up to you," Pierre-Louis. "We have the great coaches here teaching us the details, the great footwork, teaching us how to become great linebackers. So, we don't need to look any further. Now everything is on us. It's time for us to show up. It's time for us to play because we're given all the tools that we need to succeed."

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