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Training camp preview | Linebackers

06132022 Cole Holcomb MD 012

The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.

The countdown to training camp has officially begun.

We are 12 days away from the Washington Commanders' first training camp under their new identity, giving the chance for dozens of players to make their case to be on the 53-man roster. And given Ron Rivera’s belief that the team is primed to take a step forward, there will be high expectations on the third year of his tenure.

Commanders.com will be breaking down each position and how they've changed in the past year. Here are the positions we've looked at so far:

Next up are the linebackers, who have more attention than most positions on the Commanders' roster this offseason. Some of that comes from the players on the roster; Cole Holcomb was the clear star of the group with a career-high 142 tackles and two interceptions, but Jamin Davis was inconsistent in his rookie season, and once Jon Bostic was out for the season, the Commanders' options for backups were limited.

The other questions come from the Commanders' lack of moves to address the position in free agency and the draft. They've decided to stick with the current bunch of players and play more two-linebacker sets for now, believing that the young core will grow.

So, here's how the lineup is going to look in 2022: Holcomb will be the play-caller as the MIKE, while Davis will be the primary option at SAM. Veteran David Mayo will be the backup play-caller, and Khaleke Hudson will play behind Davis.

The good news is that Rivera saw positive signs from the linebackers in June, but it will be up to the group to carry that progress into the regular season.

ROSTER SUBTRACTIONS

  • Jon Bostic

KEY ADDITIONS

  • Milo Eifler
  • De'Jon Harris

Key storylines

-- Holcomb "ready to take control": Holcomb took over as the Commanders' play-caller on the field after Bostic was injured in Week 2, and after finishing with the best numbers of his career in several categories, he mentioned that he wanted the responsibility taking the role full time.

He's been granted that opportunity as he heads into his fourth season.

Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have raved about Holcomb's growth in 2021, both in his performance on the field and as a leader. Del Rio even went as far to say that Holcomb played as well or better than some of the players who receive more national publicity.

Holcomb has become a valuable piece of the defense because of his versatility and production (he's been one of the team's top tacklers since 2019). He's set to put up exceptional numbers again in the final year of his contract.

-- Davis' development: Davis' rookie season was a mixed performance. There were moments where he showed that he has room for growth, but he also had plays where he showed exactly why he was worthy of a first-round pick.

Davis looked more like the latter during OTAs. He was moving well in space, which was one of his strengths during his time at Kentucky, and he's feeling "way more confident" about his role on defense.

Davis performed better when he was lined up as an outside linebacker. He'll be doing that exclusively in 2022, which should put him in position to have a more consistent second season.

-- How will the depth perform? It's all well and good that Washington has four solid players who are locked into playing considerable snaps. There's still a gap between that quartet and the rest of the linebackers on the roster, and it'll be on the backups to close the distance.

Of the Commanders' five remaining linebackers, Milo Eifler and De’Jon Harris are the best reserve options. They played in a combined eight games in 2021 with Harris recording four tackles and a sack.

The remaining players are rookies who have potential but are largely unproven. Washington kept four linebackers on the initial 53-man roster last season, so the remaining candidates may need to convince the coaches to add one or two more to that group.

What to watch

-- Will Rivera add more players? The Commanders do have money to spend, so it's possible that Washington could add another veteran to the mix either before or after training camp.

Rivera hasn't ruled that out, either. In fact, he told Julie Donaldson that linebacker would be the position they would add to if they need to do so.

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Rivera said it will depend on how the current players on the roster show out in camp. If the depth shows enough promise, then there may be less of a need to bolster the position. If not, then a veteran could be on the way.

Either way, the Commanders have the flexibility to be patient and see how things play out.

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