As the meetings and practices got underway at the Senior Bowl here in Mobile, Ala., Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Borland felt well-prepared for this fast-paced, action-packed week-long job interview/audition.
The all-Big Ten first-team linebacker — considered one of the top players at his position at the Senior Bowl and in this year’s draft class — has just about seen and experienced it all during his college career.
He has battled injury, overcoming multiple shoulder surgeries. He has experienced plenty of change, playing for four different linebackers coaches in college and lining up at three different positions. (He has played outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, inside linebacker in the 4-3, and this past season, inside linebacker in the 3-4).
“I think that works to my advantage. Mentally, I can pick [systems] up. Physically, I can play well in the schemes and I think that helps me,” said Borland, who plays a position of need for the Washington Redskins with London Fletcher retiring. “I feel good in all the roles.”
The 6-foot, 245-pound Borland said this past season represented the most drastic change as he learned the 3-4 defense. Unlike previous years where he took on new roles in the same defense, he had to grasp new concepts and responsibilities while being asked to lead a new attack.
“This past year was a big transition, but I put in a lot of film work,” he said. “It was a big change in what you were doing with the scheme, physically. … Just playing more laterally in a 3-4. We used to be a gap defense where you go downhill and fit. This past season, it was read and react and take a few lateral steps, which I had never done in my life. It was a good chance to learn that and grow, and I think that will help me.”
Borland followed up a strong junior campaign, in which he racked up 104 tackles (56 solo), with an even better senior season. He finished with 111 tackles and four sacks, and his 72 solo stops ranked 19th in the nation.
“Just a lot of hard work,” he said. “A lot of film study.”
When speaking with teams this week, and in interviews that will follow both at the combine and during pre-draft visits, Borland will try to sell them on his versatility, knowledge and leadership abilities, he said.
Because his team’s 3-4 defense was patterned after that of the San Francisco 49ers, Borland sees himself as well-prepared. He knows that he is in no way a finished product, but he believes that he can make the transition from college standout to NFL impact player.
“I’m confident I can make a team, and I hope to be a contributing member of that team right away — not just make a roster, but make a roster better,” Borland said.
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
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