Amongst a crowded group of outside linebackers, Willie Jefferson is looking to distance himself from the pack during training camp.
When asked by a reporter to describe himself as a football player, Redskins linebacker Willie Jefferson used five definitive words.
"Aggressive, physical, athletic, explosive, playmaker," Jefferson said.
The Washington Redskins defense and special teams conducted their second day of training camp practice Friday, July 29, 2016 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
In a roster chock full of quality outside linebackers, Jefferson will need to display all five of those traits and then some over the next few weeks of training camp, because it's a guarantee that Jefferson's direct competition are going to be just that: competitive.
Jefferson's fine with having his teammates push him. It's nothing he hasn't seen so far this offseason, so nothing is coming as a shock to him.
"I feel good, just ready to get back out here and just work," Jefferson said. "Show my skills, I was out there for minicamp and OTAs and stuff like that and I put out some good film, ready to put these pads on and go with it."
There's a lot to be said for a player who's been through battles on the football field and came out on the other end of them. Experience goes a long way in determining who makes the 53-man roster and who will be looking for work with another team once the dust finally settles.
Jefferson has previous NFL experience, having signed with the Houston Texans as a college free agent prior to the start of the 2013 regular season. Jefferson played in six games that season. In 2014, Jefferson signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. He played in 17 games with 10 starts, recording 19 defensive tackles, four sacks, one fumble recovery and one blocked punt. The following season, Jefferson and the Eskimos won the Grey Cup. He played in 10 games that season and tallied 10 defensive tackles, two sacks and three knockdowns.
As fast as things moved for Jefferson in that span of time, it moved even quicker for him once the opportunity to join the Redskins came about.
"Once I signed my contact in January I was working out, just getting back in the feel of the NFL ball," Jefferson said. "It was just me out here going through some reps, going through plays, going to practice, going to meetings. Once I've been through a couple practices, a couple weeks or whatever everything just started to get back."
The outside linebackers group for the Redskins may be deep, but it's very young. Other than Ryan Kerrigan [six-year veteran], Houston Bates [second-year veteran] and Preston Smith [second-year veteran], Jefferson is the only other player in that corps with that level of professional experience. Lynden Trail's had two stints on Washington's practice squad while Shiro Davis, Ejiro Ederaine and Mike Wakefield all signed with the team as college free agents.
"I've played a little more ball than the rest of them," Jefferson said. "But just being here, talking to Preston, talking to Junior [Galette], taking to Ryan , talking to Lyndon, talking to Houston we just all fit in the same category. No one is really saying 'oh, I've been here longer than you, I've played longer than you, so we really are just all here to make the team better, to make the outside line backing corps a little better than it already was."
The corps definitely would've been better if Galette was in camp. Galette was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List on Thursday, after he suffered his second Achilles injury in as many seasons.
It's an unfortunate for the Redskins that Galette went down, but the league-wide mantra, "next man pp," applies in this situation, and Jefferson is looking to make his mark with Washington while he can.
"I heard a lot about him [Galette], just for me to be sitting in the same room with him, talking to him, getting to meet him, getting to pick his brain and everything," Jefferson said "I took a few things home when we broke for OTAs. The little things I took from him, I took it back to the crib and worked out a little bit harder, worked on my explosion, worked on my hands, got in my playbook a little bit more, watched a little more film and now that we're out here for training camp, I am just ready go out here and put these pads on and go."