Who will replace Fletcher in the middle for the Redskins?

Who will replace Fletcher in the middle for the Redskins?
April 20, 2014, 10:00 am
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Tandler - Tarik

The 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of the first veteran minicamp on April 29, Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will examine 20 questions Washington faces as Jay Gruden pieces together the roster, finalizes his playbook and preps for his first season as a head coach in the NFL.

Who will replace London Fletcher at inside linebacker?

The retirement of London Fletcher left two voids on the Redskins. His leadership will be sorely missed but that is a topic for another time. Of immediate concern is the fact that Fletcher never missed a game and played nearly every snap at Mike linebacker from when he came to the team in 2007 through last year. It looks like Perry Riley will slide into the Mike spot in place of Fletcher but who takes Riley’s spot? There are four legitimate candidates to for the position but, to twist the old saying about quarterbacks, if you have four Jack linebackers you have no Jack linebackers.

Tandler: The best solution would be for Keenan Robinson, who was drafted in 2012 to be Fletcher’s successor, to win the job. However, due to a pair of pectoral muscle tears he has not played in a game since November of his rookie year. It will be a tall order for him be ready to start in the very complex Jack position by the time September rolls around. That leaves Akeem Jordan, who has 44 career starts including 10 with the Chiefs last year, as the default option. That would leave Adam Hayward (13 starts in seven NFL seasons) and Darryl Sharpton (19 starts in four seasons) to play special teams. Jordan, Hayward, and Sharpton all are on one-year contracts and would be stopgaps until a better solution—like Robinson—can be found and developed.

El-Bashir: If I must predict who’ll start Week 1 alongside Perry Riley, I’m going to go with Darryl Sharpton. At 26, he’s the youngest inside linebacker the Redskins signed in free agency. He’ll also earn almost twice as much as Akeem Jordan, 28, and Adam Hayward, 29. Of course, there isn’t always a direct correlation between a player’s cap hit and his position on the depth chart. But it should give you a good idea of whom the Redskins expect to play the most. I consider Keenan Robinson the wildcard. At one time, he was viewed as a potential successor to London Fletcher. But after being limited to just 11 games the past two seasons due to injury, he's a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment. One more thought: the Redskins aggressively pursued defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. They did not aggressively pursue a big name inside linebacker. Is it possible the team’s brass doesn’t consider it a premium position in Jim Haslett’s 3-4 scheme?

20 questions: