Man to Man: The Linebackers, Part 1

WarpathInsiders.com Traing Camp Preview Series--The battle for roster spots at the linebacker spot will be fierce. A large field of candidates will fight it out both on defense and on special teams to see who can make the roster.

Overview: There isn't an area of the team that has more depth than this one does It's that way because linebackers, particularly ones in the middle, are very important in Gregg Williams' defensive scheme and Joe Gibbs loves linebackers on special teams. Ten of the linebackers on the roster have NFL playing experience. The numbers will dictate that some quality players will be let go.

Changes: Starting middle linebacker Antonio Pierce left as a free agent, signed Warrick Holdman, Joe Tuipala, and Brian Allen as veteran free agents, drafted Robert McCune (5th round) and Jarred Newberry (6th round), signed Zak Keasey as an undrafted free agent.

Depth Chart: Marcus Washington will start on the strong side while LaVar Arrington will man the weak side. The battle for Pierce's spot in the middle will be one of the highlights of camp with Lamar Marshall, Holdman and Michael Barrow the primary combatants and McCune having an outside shot. It's fairly certain that Allen will make the roster due to his special teams abilities and the most of the rest will fight it out for the one or two remaining spots.

Man to Man—The Outside Linebackers:

LaVar Arrington (6-3, 247, Penn State, 5 NFL seasons): Everyone reading this is familiar with the tumultuous ride it's been for Arrington since he signed that huge contract extension in December of 2003, so there's no point in recounting the details of his contract bonus dispute, injury, multiple surgeries, outburst to the press and so on. Simply put, it's time for him to become the Super-Duper Star that his draft position and contract say he should be.

Brandon Barnes (6-4, 247, Missouri, 1 NFL season): There are many, very hard-core followers of the Redskins who didn't know that Barnes played over half of the 2004 season for Washington. Baltimore cut him prior to the start of the regular season and the Redskins signed him in October. He was almost exclusively a special teams player and he'll have to do that well this year to have a shot at making the team.

Khary Campbell (6-3, 250, Bowling Green, three NFL seasons): He finished the season tied for third on the team in special teams tackles despite missing the last seven games of the season with a torn ACL. That ability alone could well land him a spot on the roster even if he doesn't end up playing much linebacker.

Chris Clemons (6-3, 234, Georgia, two NFL seasons): His niche as a speed rusher that he found late into the season, recording three sacks, will presumably be taken by Arrington so Clemons will have to make the most of the opportunities he gets if he is to make the team.

Zak Keasey: (6-0, 236, Princeton, rookie): It would be an interesting story if a Princeton product could make a cut or two, but it's unlikely to happen. History has shown that winning the Poe-Kazmaier Trophy as Princeton's best on the gridiron doesn't do much for you in the NFL.

Clifton Smith (6-3, 255, Syracuse, 1 NFL season): Smith appeared in one game for the Redskins in '03 and spent last year on the practice squad and on injured reserve. He will need to impress early if he's going to have a shot at making the team.

Joe Tuipala (6-1, 248, San Diego St., 3 NFL seasons): The Redskins signed him despite the fact that he has not played in an NFL game since 2002. He spent 2003 on injured reserve and sat out 2004 as nobody would sign him. When he played for the Jaguars he was primarily a special teams player, a role he will have to excel in if he's to make this team.

Marcus Washington (6-3, 247, Auburn, 5 NFL season): If you wanted to find the ball when the Redskins defense was on the field last year, all you had to do was find Washington. He should be hitting his prime at age 28.

Tomorrow—The Inside Linebackers and "Tweeners"

Man to Man: The Cornerbacks


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