Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
With the Washington Football Team just a few weeks removed from the season finale and a critical offseason on the horizon, it's time to turn the page to the 2022 campaign.
Over the next two weeks, washingtonfootball.com will break down every position group and lay out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft. Here are the position groups covered so far:
Next up are the linebackers:
On the roster
Head coach Ron Rivera and the Washington front office made finding a middle linebacker one of their top priorities in the 2021 offseason. At the time, it was thought that the search ended with the drafting of Jamin Davis 19th overall. After a year of evaluating the former Kentucky Wildcat, Washington may still be looking to fill the spot.
"I think that's something we gotta really look at and see if it is better for him not to have the kind of pressure that the middle linebacker has on them," Rivera said.
Granted, there were some moments where Davis put together some impressive highlights. His three-yard stop on a fourth-and-one during the season finale against the New York Giants was one of the latest examples in a season that saw him finish fifth on the team with 76 tackles.
Relive the highlights from each week of the Washington Football Team's 2021 season by scrolling through the top photos of the year. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Karlee Sell and Joseph Noyes/Washington Football Team
There were also times where, as Rivera said, Davis showed that he's "a young guy that's got a lot to learn." Rivera liked the way Davis played at the WILL linebacker position, and Davis did say after Washington 22-7 win over the Giants that he had improved in play recognition and knowing where he's supposed to be in coverage.
"Just knowing where I'm supposed to be in general and just being out there to just play fast and not have any second thoughts about where I am supposed to be."
Where Davis ends up playing in his second season will be up to his development. However, he is a player Washington drafted believing he could play at all three linebacker positions, so it does offer some flexibility moving forward.
With Jon Bostic, who is set to be a free agent in March, lost for the year with a season-ending injury, that left Cole Holcomb to relay the plays on the field. He admitted that it did come with challenges, given that he was needed at multiple spots on the field, but it didn't put a damper on his production. His 142 tackles were 10th in the league, and he added two interceptions, one of which was for a touchdown, seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
"I think I grew as the season went along and got more confident in that and was able to play a little faster towards the end of the season," Holcomb said during his exit interview.
Holcomb also said he thinks he would play well if he was permanently placed at middle linebacker. He added, however, that he is willing to play wherever his coaches need him, and like Davis, his position flex gives Washington more freedom to move him around.
There was a rotating cast of players filling out the rest of the linebacker roles. David Mayo ended up as a more consistent fixture in the group, as he started the last four games and finished with 28 tackles. Khaleke Hudson also received a start prior to being placed on Injured Reserve, which forced him to miss the last five games, and recorded nine tackles and a quarterback hit for the year.
Other players who had smaller roles were Jordan Kunaszyk, Jared Norris and De’Jon Harris, who combined to record 11 tackles. Milo Eifler played in three games and was mostly a special teams contributor.
Dont'a Hightower is one of the most intriguing options currently set to hit the market. He hasn't shown out much in pass coverage (he only has one interception in his career), but he's recorded at least 60 tackles in seven of his nine seasons. However, players like Jayon Brown and Christian Kirksey should also be available.
Check out the full list of inside linebackers available, HERE.
Utah redshirt senior Devin Lloyd is one of the best at the position after recording 111 tackles, eight sacks and four interceptions. Two SEC prospects (Alabama's Christian Harris and Georgia's Nakobe Dean) also stood out on some of the conference's best defenses. Check out the full list of prospects, HERE.