RICHMOND – In Keenan Robinson and Will Compton, Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has two young inside linebacker prospects he thinks have the capability to make plays. But Haslett doesn’t know for sure because neither prospect has much of a body of work for him to go on.
Robinson, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2012, has played in only 11 games (all as a rookie), and most of that action came on special teams. A torn pectoral muscle forced him to miss the final five games of the season, and then a torn pectoral muscle on the opposite side the following training camp cost Robinson all of last season.
Washington signed Compton as a college free agent last season. But he spent the bulk of the season on the practice squad. Compton played in one game, but didn’t take any snaps on defense.
Based on what each has shown in the offseason practices and during the first two weeks of training camp, Haslett has reason for optimism.
He has Robinson slated to start at the inside linebacker spot once held by London Fletcher. Haslett believes that Compton could serve as a talented backup capable of joining the starters in various situations while also contributing on special teams.
But the coach will not get a true feel for either player’s capabilities until he sees each in a game. That’s why Haslett can’t wait for next Thursday’s preseason opener against New England.
“I’m kind of fired up to see” Robinson, Haslett said. “I think he’ll do fine. I think it’s one of those freakish things that happened. I think he’ll be fine. I’ve got the same issues with Compton. I’ve never seen him tackle. A couple preseason games, but, I think he’s a heck of a football player, and he’ll do a good job. Now we’ll see what he does in the preseason. I think he’ll do alright.”
If all goes according to plan, Robinson will help anchor with his speed, versatility and athleticism. He would be counted on as one of the team’s top run-stoppers, and also would draw the assignment of helping in coverage of opposing tight ends.
At 6 feet 3, 238 pounds, with 4.67-second 40-yard dash speed, Robinson has all of the physical tools necessary. He also has a good understanding of the defense and has proven himself capable of making all of the calls for his unit.
Health is the biggest question mark. Haslett knows the young player could encounter some struggles. But he likes the potential that Robinson has displayed.
“I think Keenan’s doing a nice job,” Haslett said. “He’s had eight practices. He’s had his downs, and he’s had his ups. I think he’s learning from his downs. You have to remember: He hasn’t been on the field in two years. But athletic-wise, intelligence, I don’t worry about that now. And those are the things you would worry about. Now, he’s got to go out and tackle and do those things, because every time he’s tackled somebody, he’s gotten hurt.”
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