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Roster Review: Linebackers

gary-banner2.jpg breaks down the Redskins' roster position-by-position and identifies potential need areas. Up next: linebackers.

In the 2007 offseason, the Redskins sought a quarterback for the defense--a player who could make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, call out signals to defensive backs and be a playmaker, too.

They found that player in middle linebacker London Fletcher, a 10-year veteran who joined the Redskins from the Buffalo Bills.

Fletcher proved to be a key addition to the Redskins' defense, leading the team with 156 tackles. He also had three interceptions, 10 passes defended and one forced fumble.

His interception of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner in Week 7 was instrumental in the Redskins' 21-19 win that day.

Beyond statistics, Fletcher provided steady leadership as the defense finished eighth in total defense, fourth against the run and 16th against the pass.

To Fletcher's right was Rocky McIntosh, the second-year linebacker who emerged as a solid defender in 2007.

McIntosh started the first 15 games of the season and finished second on the team with 105 tackles. He had three sacks, with two coming in the first two games, and three forced fumbles.

In Week 15, McIntosh suffered a knee ligament injury that required surgery. He was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.

Marcus Washington served as the Redskins' strong-side linebacker, as well as defensive end in pass-rushing situations. He struggled with an elbow injury early in the season and a hamstring injury midseason, forcing him to miss four games.

Washington, a 2004 Pro Bowler with the Redskins, logged 59 tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble. He was second on the team in quarterback pressures with 11.

When Washington and McIntosh were sidelined with injuries, the Redskins turned to 12-year veteran Randall Godfrey.

Godfrey joined the Redskins during training camp to provide veteran experience. He could play all three linebacker positions, enhancing his value to the team.

Godfrey played in 11 games, with four starts, and totaled 32 tackles and two forced fumbles. He started the last three games (including the Wild Card playoff game at Seattle) for the Redskins.

Rookie H.B. Blades, the Redskins' sixth-round draft pick in 2007, also stepped up when McIntosh was sidelined.

Blades, a natural middle linebacker, had earned a roster spot coming out of training camp. He played on special teams most of the season.

Coaches worked him into the lineup at outside linebacker and he responded, finishing the season with 16 tackles on defense and 13 tackles on special teams.

Khary Campbell continues to serve primarily as a special teams standout, but he also stepped up as a reserve outside linebacker with McIntosh sidelined.

He logged a career-high nine tackles in the Redskins' 22-10 win over the New York Giants in Week 15, the game that McIntosh suffered his injury.

Campbell finished with 17 tackles on defense. On special teams, he led the Redskins with 39 tackles.

First-year player Matt Sinclair spent most of last season on the practice squad, but he was promoted to the roster late in the season. He played in four games, recording three special teams tackles.

In January, the Redskins signed a pair of young linebackers in Rian Wallace and Danny Verdun-Wheeler.

Wallace, 6-3 and 243 pounds, previously played two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, recording nine tackles and one interception that he returned 30 yards for a touchdown.

Verdun-Wheeler spent the 2007 preseason with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted rookie.

#### Positional Analysis

The Redskins appear to be set with Fletcher in the middle and McIntosh and Washington on the outside.

McIntosh is expected to be fully healthy by training camp, although coaches could ease him back into the lineup.

If that's the case, Blades and Campbell could continue to see action at weak-side linebacker.

The Redskins are expected to look to upgrade depth at linebacker in the draft and free agency.

Godfrey is an unrestricted free agent and his return to the Redskins remains uncertain.

Sinclair, Verdun-Wheeler and Wallace are young linebackers expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

## Three Linebackers Eligible For Free Agency
As of March 6, 2008; names listed are in no particular order

  • Boss Bailey, Detroit Lions: The brother of former Redskin Champ Bailey, Boss started 12 of 15 games last season and recorded 51 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Lions.
  • Dan Morgan, Carolina Panthers: Morgan is a 7-year veteran who earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2004. He has had his career slowed by a series of concussions.
  • Lemar Marshall, Cincinnati Bengals: The former Redskin played in just four games for the Bengals last year before suffering an Achilles tendon injury.

Three Linebackers Available In the Draft

As of March 6, 2008; names listed are in no particular order

  • Keith Rivers, USC: Rivers was highly regarded coming out of high school, and he remains a top prospect. He had 78 tackles and four pass break-ups last season for the Trojans.
  • Erin Henderson, Maryland The brother of former Terp and Minnesota Viking E.J. Henderson, Erin is an aggressive outside linebacker who logged 133 tackles last season.
  • Dan Connor, Penn State: The latest from "Linebacker U," Connor is a sure tackler and big-hitter out of Penn State. The 6-2, 231-pounder had 145 tackles and 6.5 sacks last year.
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