Redskins Training Camp Battles: Outside Linebackers

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Harar examines the battle for roster spots among Redskins outside linebackers.

Heading into training camp, the Redskins are set at the starting outside linebacker position. However, there are some back-up spots up for grabs. Here is a look at the players currently on the roster.

Brian Orakpo made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons and was named an alternate in the 2011 campaign. Unfortunately, last year came to a sudden halt when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2 and missed the remaining games. After proclaiming in OTA's that he has been given a clean bill of health for 2013, there is reason to be excited about the sack potential Orakpo will bring to the table. He had 165 tackles and 28.5 sacks in his first three seasons, and his presence was missed last year. A healthy Orakpo is a definite plus for this defense and the hope is that he can stay healthy.

Ryan Kerrigan may be the happiest man in DC knowing that Orakpo will be back. The starting left outside linebacker did his best to hold down the fort with his partner gone for most of last year. Even while garnering double teams for a large portion of the season, he still finished with 54 tackles, 8.5 sacks and was named as a Pro Bowl replacement. Kerrigan also showed his resiliency by starting all 32 games in his first two seasons and playing every single defensive snap in his first 25 games. The streak finally came to a halt against in a Week 11 blowout win against the Philadelphia Eagles, when the starters were given a rest in the second half.

Rob Jackson got the majority of the defensive snaps on the right side once Orakpo went down and made some big plays throughout the year. His last big play of the regular season was a game changing interception off Tony Romo that helped secure the victory and the NFC East title in Week 17. The 27 year-old was primed to come into 2013 as a steady backup to Orakpo until he was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the coming season for testing positive for Codeine. He will still have his spot waiting for him upon his return, but the missed time will only allow someone else to demonstrate their skills in his stead.

Brandon Jenkins is an intriguing rookie out of Florida State who may be that "someone else". After displaying impressive pass-rushing ability playing defensive end during his time in college, the fifth round pick will have a chance to showcase his competency as an outside linebacker during the first four games Jackson will be missing. While with the Seminoles and healthy, Jenkins was sometimes unstoppable, sacking the opposing quarterback a total of 21.5 times in 2010 in 2011. Many scouts believed he would have been a first round pick had he entered the NFL draft in 2012, but instead he decided to come back to Tallahassee. Tragedy struck in his first game the following season, as his suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot and was done for the year. He is now healthy again and the Redskins could have a serious steal on their hands if he is able to make the transition.

Darryl Tapp is a seven year veteran who was signed as a free agent to bring experience to the depth chart. Over the last seven years, the Virginia native and former Virginia Tech Hokie has played mostly at defensive end for the Seahawks and Eagles. He was a second round pick by the Seahawks in 2006 and his best season was in 2007 when he finished with 49 tackles and 7 sacks. He followed that up with 55 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2008 and 49 tackles in 2.5 sacks in 2009. Since that time, he has averaged just under 24 tackles and 2 sacks in the last three seasons. Tapp is a fair bet to make this squad, at least initially, with the veteran leadership he provides and with Jackson having to serve the suspension.

Vic So'oto and Ricky Elmore are, in all likelihood, long shots to make the team. So'oto has played in 11 games over two seasons with the Packers and Raiders and mostly on special teams. He was signed by the Redskins to their 53-man roster last December off of the Packers practice squad after reserve tackle Jordan Black was suspended. He was not active for any games. Elmore was signed to a reserve/futures contract in January off of the Cleveland Browns practice squad. He has bounced around the league since being selected in the sixth round by the Packers in 2011.

Outside of injury, it is anticipated the Redskins will carry no more than four or five of the names mentioned above. With Orakpo, Kerrigan and Jackson locks to make the team, the depth will most likely be provided by Jenkins and/or Tapp. This unit looks to be a solid group going into the 2013 season. The hope is that they can provide the consistent pass rush the team so badly needs.

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