Backup inside linebacker Nick Barnett is expected to receive an extensive workload as the Redskins close out the preseason against the hosting Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.
With starting ‘mike’ linebacker London Fletcher ruled out for the game, Barnett figures to start as he works to lock up a roster spot nearly a month after signing with Washington as a free agent.
A starter for all of his 10-year career, Barnett signed with Washington after the Buffalo Bills released him earlier this offseason. Barnett spent the offseason rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery. The Redskins pursued him when Fletcher’s top backup, second-year pro Keenan Robinson, suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle, early in training camp.
Barnett spent his first two weeks with the team working his way back into football shape, and learning Washington’s defense. (Barnett played in a nearly identical system in Green Bay, where he spent the first eight years of his career before signing with Buffalo in 2011.) The Redskins held him out of the first two preseason games, but gave him his first preseason action last week against Buffalo.
Barnett played 16 snaps and recorded one tackle. He said after the game that he felt good physically, but that he still found himself thinking a good deal, and didn’t believe that he had played full-speed as a result.
Barnett expected improvement in his next action.
Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett agreed and thinks with more playing time, Barnett will become more comfortable and wind up serving the team well as an experienced backup and valuable insurance policy for the 38-year-old Fletcher.
“Nick is full of football. He’s got great football instincts. He knows where to go, he flies around,” Haslett said. “He [doesn’t] know what he’s doing yet, but he knows where the ball is. I thought this week he made good strides with what we’re going to do with this week with him in the scheme and good understanding. He just needs reps on the field and once he gets those he’s going to be fine. He’s a football player. He’s a good football player.”
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● The Redskins do not practice on Wednesday, and play at 7:30 in Tampa on Thursday.
● The second round of cuts, due by 4 p.m. Saturday, requires rosters to go from 75 to 53.
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