GAUGING THE REDSKINS

Linebackers

Led by the unquestioned leader of the defense, London Fletcher (right), the linebacking unit has the potential to be either a strength or an unknown entering the season. Buoyed by Fletcher's veteran presence, and with two other talented players expected to be in the starting lineup, the unit has the makeup to be one of the strengths of the defense. At the same time, there is not one pure strong-side linebacker on the roster, and whether the Redskins can develop a serviceable SAM linebacker in the physical, run-first NFC East division could be pivotal. Weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh enters his fourth season with the Redskins another year removed from a major knee injury suffered late in 2007. A consistent producer when healthy, the major concern with McIntosh is whether chronic knee problems will catch up with him. While McIntosh and Fletcher are penciled in to start, the Redskins continue to work on converting Orakpo from defensive end to linebacker, where he will replace departed veteran Marcus Washington -- at least on first and second downs.

London Fletcher

(By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)