Aug 9, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Washington Redskins linebacker Perry Riley (56) hits Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during the first quarter at the Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
Admittedly, tighter battles are being held at other positions than linebacker, given that ageless wonder London Fletcher and young stud Perry Riley have cemented spots atop the depth chart. But worthy competition has been brought in to add depth and push the reliable incumbents. Now that one preseason game is in the books, a closer look can be given at how players are progressing. Below is a list of the inside linebackers vying for a spot on the final 53-man roster, and the numbers next to them represent how good their chances are of attaining that based on a scale of one to 10.
London Fletcher (∞): Although he didn’t record a single tackle, it doesn’t mean London Fletcher wasn’t his usual omnipresent self. Fletcher still looks ageless, displaying burst through the line and being a nuisance in the backfield when asked to blitz. It's also worth mentioning that Fletcher was also bested in coverage by a tremendous throw-and-catch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Scott Chandler. The ball was put in an area where only Chandler could get to, and the 6-feet-7-inch tight end made a great adjustment to beat his 5-feet-11 inch defender. No cause for concern here; even the great ones get beaten.
Perry Riley (10): I had written lots on Perry Riley this offseason, only to have him impress me further in his first preseason game of the year. Though he didn’t get a chance to display his instinct in the run game, fans were able to see him exclusively in the passing game, which was his area of weakness last season. In the first series of the game, Riley showed he can be a useful blitzing tool, rushing Ryan Fitzpatrick and forcing an errant throw to bring-up fourth down. He was beaten in coverage by Steve Johnson later in the first quarter, but Fitzpatrick overthrew his target. Speculatively speaking, he was probably over-excited to see his best wide receiver being covered by a linebacker.
Lorenzo Alexander (8): After dropping from 275 pounds to 245, Lorenzo Alexander literally looked like a different person when he took the field on Thursday. The weight loss will assist him in proving his versatility once again, which is a step that looked completely necessary after the front office enlisted the help of Jonathan Goff, rookie Keenan Robinson and special teams veteran Bryan Kehl. With Goff cut due to reinjuring his ACL, Alexander will continue to get his reps among the second-team.
Keenan Robinson (7): His raw talent is obvious, but Keenan Robinson sure did look like a rookie during his time on the field. While the defense’s six-play goal-line stand was impressive, it only would have needed to be a three-play stand had Robinson not committed a sloppy defensive holding penalty on 3rd-and-goal. Penalties are a no-no for young players trying to prove themselves, although Robinson’s odds to make the roster are still much more likely than not.
BELOW THE CUTLINE
Bryan Kehl (5): During the Redskins’ broadcast of the game, Antwaan Randle El said that the best thing a player on the bubble can do to ensure his roster spot is to get the coaches' attention with big plays. Bryan Kehl literally had that opportunity slip through his hands as he dropped a soft pass that could have resulted in six points. Lorenzo Alexander is the incumbent special teams ace, and although Robinson could stand to improve, Kehl remains on the outside looking in since more depth is likely reserved for other positions.
D.J. Holt (1): Holt spent his time with the third-string defense and registered two solo tackles. Like Kehl, he is on the outside looking in, but Holt has too many obstacles in his way to have a real shot at making the final team.