A look at the Redskins by position entering training camp:
The skinny: With the shift to a 3-4, only Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher will have somewhat similar roles compared to the past. Rocky McIntosh moves inside and Andre Carter, Lorenzo Alexander, Jeremy Jarmon and Rob Jackson all will be moving from end to outside linebacker. The Redskins drafted Perry Riley and signed Chris Draft to provide depth. Robert Henson has the size to play inside in a 3-4, but I’d like to see him more in coverage. That’s a big role for an inside ‘backer.
Cause for optimism: The Redskins have one requirement for a good 3-4. They have a stud outside linebacker in Orakpo. He’s a terrific starting point and his presence, coupled with playing behind Albert Haynesworth, could open things up for Carter or Alexander on the other side. Fletcher is coming off his first Pro Bowl and his role won’t really change. McIntosh is moving inside, but he often lined up inside in the past. So the look won’t be all that unusual. Plus, he’s very physical and that’s a must inside. Carter and Alexander are athletic. Alexander looked comfortable in this role in the spring; Carter was hurt most of the spring so it’s hard to gauge his transition to this role.
Cause for concern: The Redskins have too many players changing positions, with McIntosh shifting inside and Carter and a host of others moving to outside linebacker. Fletcher is small for an inside linebacker in a 4-3 and even smaller for one in a 3-4. But if anyone can overcome it, Fletcher can. However, we don’t know how well Carter or Alexander will fare on the outside. It’s not a natural spot for either player. They’re used to reading an offensive line out of a three-point stance; it’s different. Very different.
The verdict: Worse. For now. There are too many questions. I do think the interior will be fine – if they get good play from the nose tackle. Orakpo should be good in this defense because he won’t be asked to cover much. One reason some 3-4 teams did not want him in the draft is because of his coverage skills. But he will rush a lot. The Redskins keep saying Carter and Alexander won’t be asked to cover much, but they won’t be sending two outside linebackers on every play. Their transition will take time. That’s why it’s hard to say they’re better. Perhaps in the long run they will be. Maybe they’ll unearth another rush threat opposite Orakpo. But it will take a few games for that to happen. So entering camp this position looks worse; exiting camp it could look a lot different.