Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart.
Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Aug 31.
So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …
Position: “Jack” linebacker
On the roster: Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson, Bryan Kehl, Roddrick Muckelroy, Marvin Burdette and Jeremy Kimbrough
Expected to make the cut: Riley, Robinson
Comment: Like his counterpart London Fletcher, there’s no question about Perry Riley’s status: He’ll be the Redskins’ starter Week 1 at the “Jack” linebacker spot.
Riley ranked second behind Fletcher in tackles in 2012, recording a combined 129. The 25-year-old also notched 3.5 sacks, forced a fumble and defended seven passes.
With production like that, Riley is quickly becoming a cornerstone player for the Redskins. It should, however, be noted that he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
With Fletcher and Riley expected to be the starting inside linebackers, the only question is who’ll be the first to step in should one of them get hurt.
Robinson, Kehl and Muckelroy were each listed on the depth chart as Riley’s backup at some point in 2012.
Fighting for a job: Kehl, Muckelroy, Burdette, Kimbrough
Comment: If you’re working under the assumption that Fletcher, Riley and Robinson will take up three of the four jobs at inside linebacker, that leaves one job available.
Kehl’s versatility and ability on special teams would appear to make him the favorite to secure a spot. After getting caught in a numbers crunch at the end of the preseason a year ago, Kehl signed with the Chiefs. But the Redskins brought him back in November. The 29-year-old wasn't used on defense but recorded six tackles on special teams in seven games.
Muckelroy, though, shouldn’t be discounted. Although Jim Haslett said earlier this month that Muckelroy worked primarily as Fletcher’s backup at the "Mike" position during OTAs and minicamp, the 26-year-old was, at times, listed on the depth chart as Riley’s backup last fall. Muckelroy recorded 10 tackles and four forced fumbles as a rookie reserve with the Bengals in 2010 but lost the entire 2011 campaign to a torn Achilles' tendon.
Meantime, undrafted free agents Burdette (Alabama-Birmingham) and Kimbrough (Appalachian State) are also listed as inside linebackers.
If the picture seems a little muddled, well, that’s because it is. Things should become clearer once the preseason gets underway.