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: Right outside linebacker
On the roster: Brian Orakpo, Rob Jackson, Brandon Jenkins, Darryl Tapp, Vic So’oto Ricky Elmore, Will Compton.
Expected to make the cut: Orakpo, Jackson
Comment: After missing all but two games last season because of a torn pectoral muscle, Orakpo, a two-time Pro Bowler, is healthy again and expected to provide the Redskins’ pass rush with a significant boost.
It’s also a critical season for Orakpo, who’s had two surgeries on that left pec and is entering the final season of his contract. If he has a monster season and records, say, 12-15 sacks, the 26-year-old will earn a contract commensurate with other elite pass rushers. If he gets hurt again or has a disappointing season, well, the situation becomes less clear.
Either way, what unfolds between now and the end of the 2013 season will likely determine Orakpo’s future in Washington.
Jackson, meantime, figures to be Orakpo’s primary backup when he returns from a four games suspension to start the season. Last season, the 27-year-old Jackson stepped into the starting lineup in Week 3 (for the injured Orakpo) and went on to record career highs in tackles (37), sacks (4.5) and interceptions (4). He’ll start the season on suspended/reserve list; the team will have to make a corresponding move when he’s activated.
Fighting for a job: Jenkins, Tapp, So’oto, Elmore, Compton
Comment: With Orakpo entrenched as the starter, the question, it seems, is who will serve as Orakpo’s backup until Jackson returns against the Cowboys in Week 6? (The Redskins have a bye Week 5.)
Might Jenkins, the team’s fifth round pick in April, secure that spot? Coach Mike Shanahan is high on the rookie’s ability. And, as my esteemed colleague Rich Tandler points out, 67 rookies have recorded five or more sacks since the 2000 season.
Meantime, Tapp, So’oto, Elmore and Compton also figure to be in the mix for a reserve role. It should also be noted that Keenan Robinson, who is also coming off a torn pec, is listed as an inside linebacker but can (and has) lined up on the outside. Chris Wilson spent some time on the right side last year, as well, but he was not re-signed.
Whatever happens, we can be sure of this: The Redskins kept four outside linebackers – two left, two right – on last year’s opening day roster. And with Ryan Kerrigan a lock to start on the left side, several players are going to get caught in a numbers crunch