Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will be taking a close look at the Redskins’ depth chart, dissecting each position.
Some spots are straightforward. Others are more complicated. This much, however, is not up for debate: A player is not on the 53-man roster until the final cuts are made.
So who are the odds-on favorites to start? And who’s in trouble? Up today …
Position: Inside linebackers.
On the roster: Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson, Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward, Will Compton and Jeremy Kimbrough.
Likely to make the 53: Riley, Robinson, Sharpton, Jordan and Hayward.
Comment: Riley, 26, signed a three-year, $13 million extension in March and will be counted on to be a full-time starter for the third consecutive year. So the question at this position really comes down to who will be lining up next to Riley at the other inside linebacker position?
Based on OTAs and minicamp, Keenan Robinson appears to be the odds-on favorite entering training camp as he took all the first team reps alongside Riley. Robinson, however, missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle and still has plenty to prove. Indeed, he has only 11 combined tackles. Coach Jay Gruden recently praised Robinson’s offseason, saying, “He’s continued to know his assignments obviously, and then athletically, sideline-to-sideline you're not going to see a prettier athlete running from sideline-to-sideline.” But it’s one thing to do it in a non-contact OTA. It’s a whole other thing to do it in camp. So we’ll see.
Sharpton, Jordan and Hayward also very much in the mix, and should Robinson falter, each would have a good shot and stepping into his role. If not, the trio will likely rotate in based on the situation and be asked to contribute on special teams.
Asked about the inside linebacker battle two weeks ago, Gruden also singled out Riley, Jordan, Hayward and Compton for their performances this offseason.
Battling for a job: Compton and Kimbrough.
Comment: I have a hard time imagining that any of the players listed as ‘likely to make the 53’ could potentially be cut. So I’m working under the assumption that Riley, Robinson, Sharpton, Jordan and Hayward are virtual locks.
And when you consider that the Redskins only kept four inside linebackers a year ago, that means Compton and Kimbrough have a big challenge in front of them. Compton is well-regarded by the staff and was promoted from the practice squad in December to recognize his hard work in practice. Kimbrough, meantime, is attempting to work his way back from a shoulder injury that wiped out his rookie season.