The inside linebacking corps for the Redskins' defense is extremely solid on paper. Similar to the outside linebackers, there are very few spots open for debate going into training camp. Here is a look at the players currently on the roster.
London Fletcher is literally a freak of nature, not unlike recently retired former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis. Since entering the league in 1998, he has played in 240 straight games at the middle linebacker spot and has averaged 128 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 1.5 interceptions per season over his career. He joined the Redskins as a free agent before the 2007 campaign and has been a fixture in the middle ever since, making four Pro Bowls the last four seasons. Even at the age of 37 in 2012, he led the team with 139 tackles and five interceptions and also had three sacks and a forced fumble. The Redskins hope he can hold down the fort for at least one, if not two more seasons, as the left inside backer.
Perry Riley came in as a starter at the right inside spot in 2011 and has performed capably. It has been reported that the former LSU Tiger, who is going into his fourth year, has been spending an inordinate amount of time in the film room lately and is being groomed as Fletcher's eventual replacement as the quarterback of the defense. In the meantime, Riley played reasonably well in 2012. He started all sixteen games along with Fletcher and finished with 129 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
Keenan Robinson was a fourth round pick last year out of the University of Texas, and played mostly on special teams early on. He started playing more consistently in the second half of the season, and earned more playing time on defense until his year ended on Thanksgiving Day with a pectoral injury. He finished the year with 11 tackles and showed he could fill in if needed. Heading into 2013, most believe he will be the primary back-up to Fletcher and Riley next season.
Bryan Kehl had an "on again" - "off again" relationship with the Redskins in 2012. The team signed him in April after he had played the last two seasons with the Rams. Despite playing well in the preseason, he was cut right before the regular season and picked up by the Chiefs. After playing three games for Kansas City, he was waived there as well and then signed by Washington again in November. The five-year veteran played the rest of the year focusing on special teams and finished with six tackles.
Roddrick Muckelroy is a three-year veteran who is hoping to catch on after being a late season pick-up in 2012. He is a former fourth round pick by the Bengals and after showing some promise his rookie year, his career in Cincinnati was derailed by a torn Achilles the following season and he never seemed to recover.
Marvin Burdette, William Compton and Jeremy Kimbrough are all undrafted rookies. At 5-11, 230 lb's, Burdette is an undersized overachiever in the mold of Fletcher. He played his college ball at UAB, where all he did was break the school records for tackles in a career with 408, tackles in a season in 2012 with 157, and tackles in a game with 24. He also led the NCAA in tackles per game last year with an average of 13.08. Compton is a Nebraska alum who finished his senior season with 110 tackles and was named second-team All Big-Ten. Kimbrough played three years as a starter at Football Championship Subdivision (formerly 1-AA) Appalachian State. In 2012, he led the Southern Conference in tackles with 128 and was named the conference's Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Outside of injury, however, it's hard to foresee a way any of these three would make the final roster.
The Redskins will likely carry no more than three to four inside linebackers. Fletcher and Riley are locks and a healthy Robinson has the inside track over Kehl and Muckelroy. The most intriguing questions are whether Fletcher can continue his amazing streak of competency and whether Riley and Robinson will continue to progress. At some point, as certain as death and taxes, Fletcher's age will catch up to him and he will no longer be able to play at such a high level. Even though Riley is being groomed as his eventual replacement, the Redskins are hoping that does not start in 2013.