Washington Football

Position Group Rankings: Linebacker lacks star power but has potential to be reliable

Washington Football

After each ranking the Redskins' position groups on a list that went from worst to best, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will now spend the rest of the week and weekend delving deeper into every spot on the roster.

Next up is a position group that largely looks the same as last year, except for one key addition: Linebacker.

Currently on the depth chart: Thomas Davis, Jon Bostic, Cole Holcomb, Reuben Foster, Ryan Anderson(?), Kevin Pierre-Louis, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Khaleke Hudson, Jared Norris

Who's in charge?: Steve Russ (three years of NFL experience; held the same role with the Panthers in 2018 and 2019)

Quick overview

Thomas Davis is the headliner here, as the 37-year-old is set to reunite with Ron Rivera. The two were together in Carolina from 2011 to 2018. 

Kevin Pierre-Louis and Khaleke Hudson are two more new faces who figure to factor in on the defense's second level, alongside returnees Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb.

Reuben Foster is obviously the wild card. Right now, this unit has the makings of a reliable one. But if Foster can get healthy and suit up, he immediately elevates everyone's potential.



Pete's notes

*I'm a dumb blogger and podcaster, so I want to say that before I say this: I'm very high on what Thomas Davis can offer the Redskins when it comes to improving their culture, but not so high on what he'll do for them on the field every week. Again, I'm a dumb blogger and podcaster, so who am I to doubt someone who's been in the league since 2005 and coming off of a triple-digit tackle season? Ron Rivera and Davis absolutely get each other, and I think that synergy will be very useful as the former tries to set the tone with his new franchise. I'm just a bit skeptical of how much of an impact a 37-year-old can have each Sunday. But, just to reiterate one last time, I'm a dumb...

*Someone I am anticipating a lot out of, on the other hand, is Cole Holcomb. My major gripe with Washington's linebackers, and a reason I had them ninth out of 10 positions in our initial rankings (JP, by comparison, had them fifth) is that there simply doesn't appear to be enough athleticism and speed in the unit. Holcomb, though, is the exception. The fifth-rounder was far from perfect as a rookie, but he also popped plenty and is the lone guy in the corps who can really run with opponents and track people down. I can't wait to see how he grows under Rivera and Jack Del Rio.

*When it comes to Reuben Foster, I hope the Burgundy and Gold aren't planning on him contributing or even really holding out hope that he contributes. In my opinion, because of how serious Foster's injury is, the team should almost proceed like he's not even in the picture. That may sound crude -- they should involve him in everything they do this offseason and help him in his rehab and do what it takes to get him healthy, of course -- but he was a liability before severly damaging his leg last May. If he comes through, that really upgrades this spot as well as the defense overall, but that in no way should be the expected outcome. 

*Who knows if linebacker is where Khaleke Hudson ultimately takes the majority of snaps this year or in his career, but regardless of where he settles in, I'm a fan of his. He's undersized, which may prevent him from being a full-time member of the front seven, but he produced some gaudy numbers at Michigan and Rivera clearly values the kind of flexibility that guys like Hudson bring. The 2020 season may not hold much for Hudson as he transitions to life as a pro, but the years after could make the initial wait worth it.



JP's notes

*It's bizarre how Pete can barely grind out 300 word stories, but then you ask for some notes about linebackers and he goes 500 words deep. 

*It's not harsh to not consider Foster in 2020 planning. It's just reality. If he comes back it will be a great story, but the Redskins coaching staff has to prepare with what they've got.

*One name that hasn't been included here but maybe should be is Ryan Anderson. The 2017 second-round pick has talent, but so far, it hasn't been harnessed. Ron Rivera seems like he's trying to fix that: "Ryan Anderson is a guy that we obviously have to find a home for. We have to find how we can use Ryan with his particular skillset." Anderson is currently listed on the Redskins roster as a linebacker, and while at 255 lbs. he's heavier than most of the traditional LBs, he does seem capable of playing the run as a strong side backer on early downs. As the fall inches closer and the coaches try to figure out roles for specific players, keep Anderson in mind. 

*I like Holcomb, and for good reason. He's young and fast and a pretty good tackler. I like Davis. He's close to my age and has been incredibly productive for the last decade. Those two players have obvious roles at weak side and strong side LBs. The guy in the middle remains a clear question. Bostic? Maybe. He was somewhere between fine and pretty good last year. Pierre-Louis? Maybe. He's pretty much been a special teamer his whole career. Shaun Dion Hamilton? Maybe. But he was drafted by the previous regime and has struggled to stay healthy. That middle linebacker spot looks uncertain, at best. 

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