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What the deuce happened?! 2006 Linebackers Review

I will be doing a position-by-position 2007 Season Review of the Washington Redskins in the coming days/weeks/whenever-I-damn-well-feel-like-it. We'll start with the offense and then move on to the (yikes) defense. Enjoy!

Quarterbacks Review
Running Backs Review
Receivers Review
Offensive Line Review

Are we on the defense already? Do we want to be? Is recapping the nightmare that was Your Washington Redskins 2006 defense even worth the time? An attempt to examine and ameliorate what went wrong or merely destructive, counterintuitive self-punishment? Probably just an excuse to write something on a slow day in the Offseason.

Marcus Washington -- He was a pro bowler in his first year as a 'Skin (2004) and an alternate for the past two. Here at Hogs Haven we like to dog on the Washington Redskins offseason acquisitions, but we rarely applaud the ones that this team got right, like Marcus.

He was injured last year which slightly affected his numbers, but for the most part Washington was a solid player on an otherwise mediocre linebacking unit on an otherwise embarrassing defense. His 2.5 sacks (a low as a Redskin) was symptomatic of our overall inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks -- tell me if I'm being an apologist.

Washington turns 30 this year but still has juice left in the tank. We'll need to groom a replacement shortly but, for now, he's clearly a projected starter and ain't going anywhere. Had I said nowhere it would have been that he was going somewhere. Just say no to double negatives.

Lemar Marshall -- Listed at 6'2, 227 pounds, there's a very real and observable concern that Lemar Marshall is too small to play middle linebacker. His stats haven't changed dramatically in tackles or sacks as a starter, although we need to find a way to get him 4 interceptions as he did in 2005. That would have put him head and shoulders above anyone on this 2006 squad (6 total interceptions, no individual player had 2).

What I remember from the season were opposing running backs bouncing off Lemar Marshall tackles or else taking him with them for an additional 2 to 3 to 7 yards. Sean Taylor picked up over 40 tackles between 2005 and 2006 which should be attributed to our linebackers' (and I'm singling out Marshall, perhaps unfairly) inability to make the tackle at the point of attack.

Marshall is already 30 and undersized and likely needs to be supplanted on the roster within the next year or two. I don't see how we do that with Khary Campbell or anyone else on our current roster, so a MLB in free agency or the draft is a need within the next two years. But we don't have the draft picks without a trade down, and there are just too many needs (and it'd be a stretch at this position) to waste our #6 pick on a linebacker. Unless we trade down, or inexplicably win the lotto on Draft Day 2, this position remains "broken" through 2007.

Warrick Holdman -- You get what you (don't really) pay for. Holdman was paid peanuts in 2006 and produced precisely that. He's not a starting Will Linebacker and we tried to force him into that position. He was always either carrying an opposing running back for an additional couple yards or else had long since been completely eliminated from the play by a blocker. No impact whatsoever outside of being a liability.

What concerned me most was how the defensive coaching staff waited so long to plug in 2nd round pick Rocky McIntosh. It was increasingly clear that Holdman would not suffice as the starting WLB, we had this presumably talented player ready to get in the game, yet we suffered in silence with the 30+ year old veteran in over his head. Did/does the coaching staff know something about McIntosh the fans didn't/don't?

I'd say not. When McIntosh did get a shot, starting in our last two games in Holdman's stead, he picked up 10 and 5 tackles respectively. The last time Holdman had 10 tackles he was playing for the Bears... in 2003. McIntosh was a solid contributor on special teams all year.

Contractually we're ok at Linebacker. Marcus Washington is taking a huge increase in salary in 2007 but it isn't going anywhere from the 6.5M range and this team will soon be looking to replace him (he's ageing). Marshall is cheap and in a contract year in 2007. Holdman is peanuts and qualifies for the veteran league minimum, making him a steal as a backup, if we can retain his services. Note: we probably cannot.

So what you're saying is... Marcus Washington is fine in 2007, we'll worry about that position next year. Middle linebacker needs a bandaid or a long term fix, the former in free agency the latter in draft picks we don't have. I still say trade down and perhaps pickup a MLB in the 3rd round. Warrick Holdman is supplanted by Rocky McIntosh, but he can stay if he plays for next to nothing, which he won't. This unit is broken but fixable, though some of that will depend on future draft picks.

2006 Position Grade -- C

2007 Position Prediction -- C+, only because a draft pick won't yield a starter until 2008 because that's how this defensive coaching staff rolls. This grade could rise significantly depending on the impact McIntosh has, which I will not predict yet.