With the Redskins’ opening game against the Texans just around the corner, most of the focus has been on how the Redskins will cope with the duo of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. But Washington will also have to deal with the formidable Arian Foster heading a historically strong Texans rushing attack that’s flanked with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver. The Redskins have a new signal caller at the heart of their defense, with Keenan Robinson taking over at the Mike linebacker position from the retired London Fletcher. Fletcher’s play had regressed over the past few seasons, but he was always a strong leader and made important adjustment calls to get everyone lined up correctly.

How Robinson steps up to that challenge remains to be seen. But his performance on the field this preseason has been promising. He displayed good play-recognition skills, and had the athleticism that Washington has lacked at the linebacker position for years.


Here, the Ravens are running a reverse, faking the hand off on a run to the left before handing off to wide receiver Jacoby Jones.


As quarterback Joe Flacco fakes the initial hand off, Robinson works his way up to the line of scrimmage. Robinson keeps his eyes in the backfield to locate the ball.


As Jones receives the ball, Robinson makes his way back across the field, avoiding traffic, while Ryan Kerrigan forces Jones to adjust his path to the edge.


Robinson has the closing speed to show Jones to the sideline, who steps out of bounds for a five-yard loss. In previous years, London Fletcher might have diagnosed the play, but not had the speed to get over in time to make the play. Robinson got there with time to spare and Jones wasn’t able to turn the corner and get up the field.

Another thing the Redskins have lacked is solid tackling. They’ve been among the worst in the NFL with missed tackles over the past few years. In preseason, Robinson showed he can wrap up and make form tackles, even in key situations.


The Ravens faced a fourth and one. They run the ball to the left.


Robinson identifies the play quickly and begins to make his move towards the ball-carrier.


The runner attempts to bounce the run outside, but Robinson comes flying in at full speed and wraps his arms around him.


Robinson shows good form as he brings the runner to the ground for a loss. Baltimore wanted to make a statement run on fourth and one and ended up losing a yard on the play thanks to an excellent read and tackle from Robinson.

Robinson’s athleticism also helps him in coverage. Receiving tight ends have caused Jim Haslett’s defense nightmares, but Robinson’s ability in coverage should help.


Here, the Ravens face third and seven. They have wide receiver Jacoby Jones running an underneath crossing route.


Robinson drops back into coverage, but spots Jones cutting underneath on his crossing pattern. Robinson breaks on the route.


Robinson runs impressively step for step with Jones and takes away the checkdown option for Flacco, who is sacked moments later by Jason Hatcher.

All of these plays are encouraging signs for Robinson. His development is key to the Redskins defense. If they are to beat the Texans and indeed go on to have a successful season, Robinson will have to continue to play at this level.

Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins without the benefit of access to the team. For his previous work, click here.

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