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: “Mike” linebacker
On the roster: London Fletcher, Roddrick Muckelroy, Keenan Robinson, Bryan Kehl
Expected to make the cut: Fletcher, Robinson
Comment: The Redskins’ ageless wonder, London Fletcher, appears to be a lock to serve as the nerve center of Washington’s defense once again.
Although the 38-year-old was slowed by a litany of injuries last season, he still managed to make a team-leading 139 tackles, record three sacks and establish a career-high for interceptions with five – in his 15th season.
Fletcher had the first two surgeries of his career during the offseason, one on his left ankle and the other on his elbow. He was limited in the early stages of OTAs, but was to the field the majority of the offseason program, even though Coach Mike Shanahan would not have minded if he watched from the sidelines.
“That’s why London is playing at 38 years old, because [working hard in the offseason] is a priority for him,” Shanahan said. “Staying in shape, understanding the defense inside and out, leading by example. That’s why you want guys like that on your football team. If they don’t do that in the offseason, that means they’re probably going downhill very quickly.”
When Fletcher lines up against the Eagles on Sept. 9, he’ll be appearing in his 241st consecutive game, giving him the longest active streak (Ronde Barber, also at 240, retired in May). At his age, Fletcher is still one of the toughest linebackers in the league and remains a top tackler, but he had a difficult time in pass defense last season. Maybe it was injuries. Maybe it was Father Time. Whatever the cause, it will be interesting to see what happens in 2013 if opposing quarterbacks continue to find success throwing his way.
Muckelroy worked as Fletcher’s backup this offseason, according to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Muckelroy, the Bengals’ fourth round pick in 2010, missed the 2011 season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. He was signed by the Redskins in November to replace Keenan Robinson after Robinson was lost a season-ending pectoral muscle tear.
It had long behind assumed that the Redskins were grooming Robinson to replace Fletcher. And it’s possible they still are. But Haslett told reporters earlier this month that Robinson, who is expected to return in training camp, will be working behind “Jack” linebacker Perry Riley.
Fighting for a job: Muckelroy, Kehl
Comment: The Redskins kept four inside linebackers last season – Fletcher, Riley, Lorenzo Alexander and Robinson. So, based on the numbers, someone is going to get squeezed if you’re working under the assumption that Fletcher, Riley and Robinson are locks. (Alexander signed in Arizona.)
Muckelroy, 26, got a lot of run during the offseason and, at 6 foot 2, 250-pounds, is certainly in the conversation. In five games with the Redskins last season, he did not take a snap on defense. In 19 career contests (14 came with Cincinnati in 2010) he has 11 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Kehl, meantime, impressed Haslett this offseason. He’s also a valued contributor on special teams, where he recorded six tackles in seven games. That should not be discounted.
“He’s a guy that can run,” Haslett said of Kehl. “He’s athletic.”
Undrafted free agents Marvin Burdette (Alabama-Birmingham) and Jeremy Kimbrough (Appalachian State) are also listed as inside linebackers and are in the fray, Haslett said.