It’s no secret that pass rusher is an area that the Redskins would like to address this offseason.
Last year, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo posted a team-high 8 1 / 2 sacks in the unit’s first season in the 3-4 defense, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett repeatedly stressed the need for the defense to get some pressure off the opposite edge.
Andre Carter (who was released earlier this year), Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson mustered a combined five sacks during the transition year, however.
While talking about needs for the defense, Coach Mike Shanahan said outside linebacker “ranks right at the top. Obviously, when you have any consistent defense, using the 3-4, you’ve got to have two great outside pass-rushers.”
Von Miller has spent the winter and spring climbing draft boards, but the Redskins appear to have a good shot at landing North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn with the 10th overall pick in next week’s draft. But what do the team’s current outside linebackers think about that?
Asked what direction he would go in the draft, Orakpo said, “I’m all for drafting defense. Obviously, I’m a defensive guy. Defense wins championships,” but didn’t identify a specific position he’d want Redskins brass to fill.
The guys vying for that starting spot opposite Orakpo have tried not to pay attention.
“I’ve been in this league so long, I really couldn’t care less,” said Alexander, who is entering his seventh year in the NFL. “Early on in my career, I would’ve worried. I remember I used to give myself migraines, worrying so much. But if they drafted Von Miller or some other ’backer, great. I’ve been working hard and know that if I keep on doing what I’m doing, I’ll be fine. I tell you what, if they do, that dude will know that I’m behind him!”
Said Jackson: “I try not to get involved or care about that stuff. I’ve been fighting to stay in the NFL since I’ve been here. I played at a high level and showed I belong out there with those guys. If they do draft a guy high, it’s not he end of the world. It’s not going to discourage me in any way. I’ll keep fighting to earn playing time.”
Wilson said the Redskins should look at another need.
“All they need to do is keep 95 in the game,” he said referring to his jersey number. “We’re stacked at OLB. That’ll be a waste of a pick.”
All three players are expecting breakouts this year because they were basically learning on the fly last season.
Before last year, Alexander had played everything from defensive tackle, to offensive line and tight end. He dropped roughly 25 pounds and converted to linebacker and started 12 games opposite Orakpo. This past offseason he has dropped another 15 pounds while also working to improve his speed and quickness.
Wilson (a four-year veteran) and Jackson (three-year vet) had both played defensive end before last season, and now feel more comfortable at linebacker.
“Now I’m thinking like a linebacker,” Jackson says. “Rushing [out of a two-point stance] wasn’t a problem. It was just listening to calls of offenses and audibles. At defensive end, you close your ears and go.”
“Very,” he said when asked how much more comfortable he expects to be this season. “Run, pass rush, coverage. After a year of seeing where everyone fits and understanding the concept of the defense, I’m ready to rock and roll.”