Veteran linebacker Keyaron Fox made his Washington Redskins practice debut Monday morning and almost immediately made the inside linebacker competition more interesting than it already was.
London Fletcher is firmly entrenched at one inside linebacker position, and coaches have given second-year LSU product Perry Riley a chance to compete for the spot next to him.
Meanwhile, the Redskins last week re-signed Rocky McIntosh, who started at that position last season, but despite recording a career-high 110 tackles, struggled in pass coverage. Washington also re-signed Fletcher’s backup, H.B. Blades. Jack-of-all-trades Lorenzo Alexander has been working at both inside linebacker spots, as well as outside linebacker.
Now comes Fox, whom Mike Shanahan and his defensive coaches already like. According to Shanahan, the Redskins have “targeted him for a long time now.”
Immediately after Monday’s practice, the coach said, “We feel like he can help us at both [inside] linebacker positions. He knows the position well and he knows the terminology. He’s been the captain of the special teams, so we’re hoping he can help, come in and compete.”
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Fox recorded 23 tackles last season for the Steelers, who started James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons inside. The year before, Fox notched 44 tackles and an interception, which he returned 82 yards for a touchdown. Fox also served as special teams captain for Pittsburgh the last two seasons.
Fox said that he chose the Redskins because their defensive scheme is very similar to the Steelers’, and because of his familiarity with Washington linebackers coach Lou Spanos, who held the same position in Pittsburgh when Fox came there in 2008.
“I’m familiar with what’s going on, so I feel like it’ll be an easy transition coming off of a short offseason and into camp late,” Fox said. “Lou made it easy for me. Coach Spanos coached me up in Pittsburgh, and he has a good feel for my talents and knows what I can do. So he helped in my decision.”
Jim Haslett indicated last week that Riley may not be as far along as coaches hoped at this point, and the next day, McIntosh was re-signed. Of McIntosh, Shanahan said only “he has a chance to compete, and that’s all you can ask for.” He used “compete” in reference to Fox as well. And on Monday, Alexander worked exclusively at outside linebacker, and didn’t know if he would continue to do so, or if he would split time.
Fox was uncertain of the Redskins plans as well.
“They haven’t told me about my role, but as a competitor, I always plan on coming in and competing for a starting position,” Fox said.