Career Redskins backups compete for Orakpo's job
ASHBURN, Va. (AP)
For those who study the Washington Redskins roster with magnifying glass, it seems as if Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson been around forever. They are career backup defensive players who have toiled in near anonymity with 94 NFL games between them - and nary a start.
The streak comes to an end for one of them Sunday.
With two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo out for the season with a shoulder injury, Jackson or Wilson will finally get his name etched into starting 11 when the Redskins (1-1) host the Cincinnati Bengals.
''I'd be lying if I wasn't trying to win a starting role,'' Wilson said. ''And I don't have to ask Rob. I know he's trying to do the same thing. It's a very competitive room.''
There will likely be another first-time starter elsewhere on defense. Second-year player Jarvis Jenkins is expected to get the call to replace defensive end Adam Carriker, who is done for the year with a knee injury.
That's hardly good news for a team that's allowed 63 points in its first two games.
''Anytime you have a starter like Brian Orakpo or Adam go down, obviously there is going to be a little bit of a drop-off,'' cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. ''At the same time, you feel like the guys you have are capable of going in there and making plays, too. The rest of us have to definitely pick up the slack.''
Orapko's shoes will be especially hard to fill. He's proven he's good for at least eight sacks per season, and the outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme must also be able to handle pass coverage.
Thus the competition between Wilson and Jackson. Regardless of which one starts, coach Mike Shanahan said both will get ample playing time Sunday. The one who performs better will get to keep the job.
Should neither prove worthy, the Redskins could turn to 2011 draft pick Markus White, who was cut at the end of preseason and then signed off Tampa Bay's practice squad this week after Orakpo was hurt.
''We'll work all three of them,'' defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday. ''They can make it up. Maybe they won't play at Rak's level, but they can be efficient in certain areas.''
Wilson was an unexpected pass-rushing threat for the Redskins in 2007 as an undrafted rookie defensive end, getting four sacks in limited playing time.
But that was five years ago. He's had only two sacks since, and he spent last year out of football after the Redskins didn't re-sign him. He spent the 2011 training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles but failed to make the regular season roster.
It was during that downtime, while watching games on television, that he learned to be a student of the game.
''The physical part of the sport never really overwhelmed me, from Day One since my rookie year,'' Wilson said. ''But being a student of the techniques and what's going on, understanding the concepts on my defense as well as the other team's offense, that's the difference between good and great teams.''
In April, the Redskins brought back Wilson, whom they now consider a linebacker in the 3-4. He earned a roster spot out of training camp and was therefore reunited with Jackson, a 2008 seventh-round draft pick who had two extended stints on Washington's practice squad before finally finding a regular spot a year ago as a special teamer.
Jackson says a starting gig feels like a long time coming, and he sensed this might be his chance when he watched Orakpo struggle to recover after tearing a pectoral muscle in the last game of last season.
''Rak's pec has never been right, ever since it happened last year,'' Wilson said. ''I've been preparing for a case like Sunday when he went out and I had to step in and play most of the game.''
The Redskins need at least a passable sub for Orakpo, if only to keep offenses from focusing solely on the other outside linebacker, Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan and Orakpo made for a daunting tandem, a sack machine lined up on each side of the field.
Now Kerrigan knows he'll see more double-teams.
''I've got to definitely raise my game,'' Kerrigan said. ''I haven't played up to my standards the first couple of weeks. Especially with Rak down now, I've got to make even more plays.''
Notes: WR Pierre Garcon remains limited with a sore right foot and could miss a second consecutive game. ''He's going to get as much treatment as he can every day,'' Shanahan said. ''He's working extremely hard, but it's still sore.'' ... CB Josh Wilson (concussion) and S Brandon Meriweather (knee) were also limited in practice Thursday. ... Shanahan isn't happy that the Redskins are leading the NFL in penalties. ''We're a very disciplined football team,'' the coach said. ''There's a number of those calls that shouldn't have been called, and there's a number of calls that should have been called. But I guarantee you at the end of the day we won't have those penalties.''
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