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53: Linebackers

Jul 28, 2009, 5:00 AM EDT

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Brian Orakpo's play at linebacker will be key to the Redskins' D this year

Brian Orakpo's play at linebacker will be key to the Redskins' D this year

Between now and the start of training camp I’ll be making my predictions about who will be on the final 53-man roster for the Washington Redskins–who’s there, who’s in, who’s on the bubble, and who’s out. The predicted roster will be revised and updated as preseason events warrant. Today, linebackers:

Who’s here Now: (9) Alfred Fincher, Cody Glenn, Robert Henson, Brian Orakpo, Robert Thomas, Darrel Young, London Fletcher, H. B. Blades, Rocky McIntosh.

How many will stick: 7

Starters: Fletcher in the middle, flanked by McIntosh and Orakpo. The Orakpo experiment is the key to the defense this year. If he can play well against the run and not get burned too often in coverage—and don’t doubt that Greg Blache will figure out ways to shade some help his way—while playing standing up, the defense could be a truly dominant unit. If things work out as they hope, he may well be playing more end than linebacker because the opposition will be facing a lot of second and long situations. Fletcher started to show some signs of slowing down last year but he’s still more than adequate and is Blache’s extension on the field. McIntosh is fully recovered from his late ’07 knee injury and could have a big year.

Solid backups: Blades, Henson—Blades didn’t embarrass himself as a starter, filling in much of the year for Marcus Washington, but he’s better suited to coming off of the bench in situational substitutions. Henson has worked at all three linebacker spots and he will play special teams.

Last men on: Thomas, Fincher—Both are valuable, veteran reserves. Fincher is a good contributor on special teams. If they are even in camp but one of them has to go, Fincher is four years younger than Thomas so he probably would get the nod.

First man off: Glenn converted from running back and will have to catch on in a huge hurry if he wants to make it. Outstanding special teams performance could edge him onto the final roster as well. The odds are against it and he likely winds up on the practice squad.

Spots taken so far: 44

Spots Remaining: 9

Next: Defensive backs

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