MOBILE, Ala.—With London Fletcher expected to retire, Perry Riley set to become a free agent and no impact players in the pipeline at inside linebacker, the Redskins will need to address the position this offseason.
This week, GM Bruce Allen and other members of the personnel department attended the Senior Bowl, where they scouted over 100 prospects. One of the players Allen and Co. watched closely and interviewed was Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, an inside linebacker talent evaluators have compared to Zach Thomas.
Indeed, what Borland (5-11, 246) lacks in height, he makes up for with intensity, sound fundamentals and a high football IQ. This week, he was among the most active players on the North team and, as a result, earned the Alabama Power Co. Practice Award as the top performer in his position group.
The Senior Bowl kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday on NFL Network.
“It’s been pretty fast,” Borland said. “Obviously there are some explosive guys, some strong guys. It’s about what I expected. I played in a good conference and against a lot of good teams in bowl games. So I’ve played against a lot of these guys already.”
Borland has been among the most prolific linebackers in the nation the past two seasons and was named the Big Ten defensive player of the year last month. As a junior, the Kettering, Ohio native recorded 104 tackles, including 10 for loss, as well as 6 defended passes, 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Last season, he recorded 111 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, and 4 sacks.
Although Borland wasn’t asked to drop into pass coverage much in college, he showed this week that he’s plenty capable of doing it. In fact, he notched two interceptions.
“It’s pretty simple coverages this week,” Borland said. “The [Falcons’ coaching staff] has really just emphasized fundamentals—playing with your hands, leveraging in pass coverage and reading the right receiver.”
The past few days have been a blur for Borland, who has spent each evening shuttling from interview to interview as NFL teams seek to get to know him. NFLdraftscout.comprojects him as a third round pick in May’s draft.
Even though the draft still is more than three months away, the anticipation for Borland and the other prospects is building, he said.
“It’s palpable,” Borland said. “Guys can feel it. They’ve seen the NFL personnel here all week, at practice and the hotel. That, combined with the fact that it’s really combine and pro day and that’s it for these guys after this game. It’s very close. It’s very exciting. It’s definitely crunch time in terms of preparation.”