Washington Redskins drafted Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson with plans of grooming him to eventually replace stalwart London Fletcher. But injuries cost Robinson the bulk of the last two seasons and put those plans in doubt.
However, this offseason – now fully recovered from the torn pectoral muscle that cost him all of the 2013 campaign – Robinson has worked both to make up for lost time and to convince his coaches that despite a limited resume, he has the capability to replace Fletcher.
Robinson has done well in classroom sessions and on-field workouts this offseason. And during this week’s three days of practices, he lined up with the first team, playing at Fletcher’s old “mike” linebacker spot next to “jack” linebacker Perry Riley Jr., who returns for his fourth season as a starter and last season led Washington in tackles.
Robinson appeared at ease on Thursday as he made the defensive calls, and matched the tempo of the returning starters although he has had to play catchup. Robinson attributed his comfort level to having played behind Fletcher and having to make the calls for the second unit when he was healthy. Robinson’s decision to attend unit and position meetings while he recovered from his injury, and the groundwork laid this offseason leading up to OTAs, also have paid off.
“Mentally he’s in good shape,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said of Robinson, adding that inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti “has done a great job with him getting him up to speed. Physically, he looks excellent to me. He’s running, he’s long, and he can run sideline to sideline in pass coverage. He’s disruptive. He gets into zones and is a big guy to throw over. He can cover tight ends, he can cover backs.”
The Redskins also signed veterans Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton this offseason to compete at inside linebacker.
But if all continues to go well for Robinson, he could hold onto that starting job.
“We have high hopes for Keenan and we love the progress he’s making,” Gruden said. “Just from a short period of time, he’s one of the guys on the field that stands out. We’ll say, ‘Is that Keenan again?’ He’s doing a great job, so the big thing is keep him healthy. Our strength coaches will be working with him and we’re hoping he has no setbacks from his injury.”