The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
We are weeks away from training camp, and there are plenty of new faces gracing the Washington Football Team's roster. So Washingtonfootball.com is breaking down each position as the team prepares for Year 2 of Ron Rivera’s regime. Here are the positions we've covered so far:
Next are the linebackers. It's a position that Rivera saw slowly improve throughout the year but still one he wanted to shore up in his second season as head coach. It's why he and general manager Martin Mayhew elected to use Washington's first-round pick on Jamin Davis, whose speed, versatility and overall demeanor they believe will help the position overall.
Just like most positions on the team, youth is in abundance at linebacker. Jon Bostic, Jared Norris and David Mayo are the only two who have played for at least seven seasons. The others, including Cole Holcomb and Khaleke Hudson have experience of three seasons or fewer.
The benefit is that these younger players have seen an ample amount of snaps and performed well. Holcomb has finished among the Top 3 in tackles the past two years, and Hudson played well in two starts. As long as they stay on their development path, there is a foundation for a strong group.
- Thomas Davis Sr.
- Kevin Pierre-Louis
- Mychal Kendircks
- Jamin Davis
-- Where will Davis play?: Rivera and Mayhew feel strongly that Davis can play all three of the linebacker positions. Those assertions are spot on because the former Wildcat has a blend of strength, speed and intelligence to be a problem at any spot on the field. He needs to start somewhere, though, which is why he was used heavily at middle linebacker during OTAs and minicamp.
The reasoning for that, said linebackers coach Steve Russ, is because that is where he played the most in college, and the familiarity helps to ease the transition to the NFL. Don't be surprised if he moves elsewhere in camp, though. He may drift from MIKE to WILL and SAM all in one week. Maybe the coaches do want him to be their MIKE at some point, but for now, the priority is finding out where he'll contribute the most during his rookie year.
"Honestly, just learning everything I can so I can be thrown right into the fire and make an immediate impact," Davis said on his training camp goals. "That is one of the first things I asked. How soon can I get started?"
-- Holcomb taking a jump in leadership: Bostic has been a steady presence on Washington's defense for the past two seasons. As good of a leader as he's been, the amount of young at the position means someone else needs to step up. That's a responsibility Holcomb is starting to embrace. He was one of the first people to reach out to Davis and has become one of his mentors. Those are the things Holcomb enjoys; he wants to be the person teammates come to for questions or advice. It's time to take another leap in his career, and with that comes a forward-facing role.
"I had a couple vets that helped me get through my rookie year," Holcomb said. "So if I can be that for somebody, I'm okay with being it."
-- Rotation, rotation, rotation: One drive might include Davis, Bostic ad Holcomb in the huddle; the next might include Hudson, Norris or Mayo. Russ shifted players around a lot in minicamp and that's because he wants to create depth. That might only mean having plenty of backups to some, but quantity means little if they can't produce quality reps. So, Russ rolled in all his players at different positions to build experience and versatility. Players get injured; it's the nature of the NFL, so players need to be ready for any role at all times.
"I don't coach SAMs, MIKEs and Wills, or backers of dime [player]. I coach linebackers," Russ said. "Really, outside of one technique that I can think of, all the techniques and principles and fundamentals that we teach...are applied through all those linebacker positions."
What to watch
-- The growth of the entire room: Holcomb is entering his third season; Hudson is in his second; Jordan Kunaszyk signed midway through the season, and even Bostic, the most experienced player at the position, is entering the second year of a defensive scheme for the first time in his career.
The point is that this position is still growing. Will there be some great moments? Of course. Will there be mistakes? Probably. That, however, is part of learning to play at the professional level. There should be an expectation for results, but it should also come with the knowledge that some results take time.