30 Questions: Who will start at inside linebacker?

30 Questions: Who will start at inside linebacker?
July 10, 2014, 10:30 am
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Tandler - Tarik

With a new head coach, some intriguing free agents and a quarterback on the comeback trail, the 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 30 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.

Who will start at inside linebacker for the Redskins?

From mid 2011 through end of last season, one constant for the Redskins was London Fletcher and Perry Riley starting at inside linebacker. But Fletcher has retired after a distinguished 16-year career, creating an enormous hole in the middle of a unit desperate to improve. Fletcher’s departure also creates an enormous opportunity for the player who is tapped to replace him and line up next to Riley. Entering training camp, Keenan Robinson, Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward are all candidates. But only one of them will start Week 1. So who will emerge?  

El-Bashir: I’m going to make the obvious pick—Robinson. The 25-year-old worked with the first team alongside Riley all offseason for a reason: Haslett and his staff believe he’s the best choice to succeed Fletcher. Robinson is young, competes well against the run and possesses the speed and length to excel in coverage. The only questions, it seems, are: can he stay healthy and is he mentally ready to handle the complex role of ‘Mike’ linebacker? Robinson got through OTAs and minicamp without being impeded by the pectoral muscle tears that ended his 2012 season and completely wiped out his 2013 campaign. So, from a health standpoint, he seems to be fine. Mentally, though, he recently conceded that he’s still getting a handle on calling the plays. My prediction is this: if he proves during training camp and the preseason that he’s ready to handle the all responsibilities of playing the ‘Mike’, he’ll hold off the competition. If he doesn’t, well, all bets are off as to who will step in.

Tandler: The knock against Robinson is that he has very little experience. But he does have 69 NFL snaps under his belt from his rookie 2012 season. That’s not a lot but it’s more than the nine snaps that Perry Riley had before stepping into the starting lineup midway through his second season in the league. Riley has only missed a handful of snaps since then and there’s every reason to think that Robinson can overcome his lack of playing time and step right in to the starting lineup. Robinson did not sit around idly during his time on injure reserve. While rehabbing he got plenty of time in meetings and in the film room. He’s as mentally prepared as he can be. As Tarik noted, the question is if he can stand up physically. If he can he’ll be the starter September 7 against the Texans and for many seasons to come.