Rob Jackson Suspended, Who Starts at ROLB?
The Washington Redskins face another new dilemma as they approach April, as in who will be at starting right outside linebacker in Week 1 of the NFL season.
They may have had the same question one way or the other, but now the choices are extremely limited because Rob Jackson, who replaced Brian Orakpo as the full time starter, has been suspended by the NFL for violation for the league's comprehensive substance abuse/performance enhancing drug program.
The details are still unclear, and the suspension has not been officially announced by the Redskins which means that an appeal is still in the process of being cleared up.
ESPN 980 has texted and called Jackson for comment several times since the news was broken by longtime NFL reporter Howard Balzer on Wednesday night, but as of 1:15 PM Thursday, Jackson had not responded.
ESPN 980 also spoke to Jackson's contract agent as listed by the NFLPA as soon as the report came out, and the agent said he had no idea about the report or the suspension. When asked for comment later on in the evening, the same agent did not respond.
Various reports have the NFL as acknowledging the suspension, but it is unclear as to the exact nature of the violation. Other reporters have mentioned that the violation occurred while taking an over the counter pain killer to help with a toothache.
Here is apparently where the issue started. On December 11, 2012, I tweeted this on my account (@Russellmania980) - "Only thing that can stop #Redskins OLB Rob Jackson these days?? A trip to dentist. Told @ESPNRadio980 he had a root canal & wisdom tooth out."
The reason he told me about this issue was because he missed a pre-scheduled interview, one of many that Rob helped with all throughout the season.
I understand that the NFL has very specific rules about what you can take and can't take. It's sad, that some cheaters (HGH users) get away with hurting their bodies and the game because of the lack of testing, while a person that apparently tried to numb a toothache is subject to having his career tarnished and to hurting his team.
Which brings us to the issue and effect on the Redskins. Brian Orakpo is recovering from season-ending surgery on his pectoral muscle in Week 2 of last season. He has had three injuries/tears to the same general muscle area since January 1 2012. Will Orakpo ever be the same?
Nobody knows for sure. He is rehabbing near the University of Texas in Austin, according to Mike Shanahan. Orakpo is a very determined individual for sure, but the questions at least have to be asked and the situation has to be one of concern. Anybody that tells you otherwise is simply blowing smoke where the sun doesn't shine.
The Redskins let Lorenzo Alexander leave via free agency and re-signed Bryan Kehl, but Kehl is a natural inside LB with limited practice time last year on the outside.
Currently, Ryan Kerrigan, Orakpo, Jackson, Vic So'oto and Ricky Elmore are the only listed outside linebackers on the Redskins roster, per a depth chart breakdown from Ourlads.com.
That has to be an enormous concern for a defense that is already thin in the secondary. If Orakpo is not ready, who would start Week 1??
My guess is that with Keenan Robinson (listed at inside) on the mend and the fact that he was a starter at outside linebacker in a different scheme while in college, Robinson will get a healthy dose of reps and work at the outside spot during camp. This would also be to prepare for the possibility that Orakpo will at least need to be spelled as he was even before his injuries.
ESPN 980 reached out to Robinson for his thoughts on the subject. In a text exchange, Robinson explained that "My freshman through junior yr (year) we were based out of a 3-4..I played some 'Sam' (OLB freshman yr) and then moved to 'Will' (ILB) sophomore and junior yr. In nickel, I played Will as well in the 4-2-5. My senior yr we were primarily a 4-3 and I played 'Mike' backer. In nickel, I played 'mike' as well."
You may remember the Minnesota victory, when the Redskins bent but did not break on the Vikings first three offensive series. They gave up field goals, but Robinson was huge on several third down red zone stops to force those three-point opportunities.
Going back and watching some of the coaches tape, the Redskins deployed Robinson on the outside on both 3rd down stops that I saw, on both sides of the field. Both times, Robinson was able get off blocks and make or assist with key stops. I remember Robinson standing out that day in a subtle way, one that was lost in the offense exploding, but the proof was in the pudding after going back months later to watch the tape.
Robinson explained that against Minnesota "I was actually playing DE (defensive end) in a 4 down scheme (4 defensive lineman). I had the option of gettin in a 3 pt (point) or 2 pt stance. I chose 2 pt because I felt most comfortable with that. They had me rush a little bit, but mostly I dropped into coverage. I liked playing the position and it was what Lorenzo played a lot throughout the season."
This isn't to say that he could play 60 + snaps if forced to as a starter in Week 1 and play at a high level, but at least the potential exists. Robinson also told ESPN 980, "I feel like with my size and athletic ability, I could play both (inside/outside), but now that we have Rak (Brian Orakpo) back, they may not need me to do so unless we want to utilize a speed package with me, Rak and Kerrigan all on the field at once."
The other issue?? In a strange twist of irony, the two former Longhorns are both recovering from the same injury (torn pec muscles). Robinson told me via text " It's coming along good. It's been 4 months since surgery..feels good." He didn't know exactly when he would be cleared, but certainly intends on going as soon as the Redskins doctors and staff allow him to compete.
It basically means a dire situation becomes a little less dangerous. It means that we can all go back to worrying about who the Redskins will start at cornerback this year.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980