Redskins outside linebacker Markus White is one of many NFL players whose rookie offseasons were affected by the lockout last year. Consequently, White said, he felt ill-prepared heading into training camp last season and dreaded the team’s first preseason game against Pittsburgh.
This year, with a full offseason of team workouts under his belt, White’s perspective on the Redskins preseason opener is noticeably different. The team plays Thursday at Buffalo, where White will try to make a strong impression as he continues to battle for a roster spot at a crowded position.
“I’m a lot more confident going into this game. I actually can’t wait for it,” White said. “Last year, it might have been the opposite where I’m like, ‘Oh man, give me a couple more days before we got this game,’ because there’s a lot to take in at once. Now, it’s kind of like I’m ready.”
In addition to being new to the league last year, White also was among the Redskins rookies who were asked to change positions. A defensive end at Florida State, White moved to outside linebacker after Washington drafted him in the seventh round.
Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins first round draft choice in 2011, made the same transition and ended up playing every defensive snap last season. White, meantime, played in two games – mostly on special teams – and was inactive for the other 14 contests. He grew adept at learning the outside linebacker position by analyzing the standout plays and mistakes of Kerrigan and the team’s other starting outside linebacker, Brian Orakpo.
“Mentally, I feel like I have this stuff down,” White said. “I just need experience. I just want a lot of reps, and I just want to play a lot in this preseason to prove myself.”
As a third team linebacker who occasionally rotates in on the second unit, White does not receive much direct coaching. Instead, he listens to the coaching his higher profile teammates receive and applies the messages to himself.
Each night, White twice watches tape of everything the defense did that day. Instead of focusing on the play of his teammates, as he does during team meetings earlier in the day, White said he uses his nightly sessions to hone in on his own strengths and weaknesses.
“I’m in a position to make plays,” White said, “but it’s just little things like offensive keys, learning off of what the offense is doing and getting what they do, which takes experience.”