Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let Me Get This Straight: Linebacker Edition

I'm confused

Let me get this straight. The Redskins cut Lemar Marshall. After starting strongside linebacker Marcus Washington dislocated his elbow, the Redskins cut the guy with the most experience. No we are not talking about LaVar, we are talking about Lemar. The same Lemar that has been with the team for five full seasons and worked his way into the starting lineup and played for the number three overall Redskins defense in 2004 and the number nine overall Redskins defense in 2005.

This is perplexing to me for a number of reasons and I am left wondering, what the hell. Hogs Haven spotted this last night, WaPo, WaEx. The Redskins also signed a guy off the street, a 34 year old dude that was about to retire, a dude not in game shape and coming into the team more than three weeks after the start of camp. I am curious:

1. Lemar has been with the Redskins for five seasons and was elevated to starter Joe Gibbs' (and Gregg Williams') first year in 2004. He was part of the number three overall 2004 defense and the number nine overall 2005 defense. He knows the system.

2. Lemar's replacement, Randall Godfrey is no slouch to be sure having started 13 games last season for Wade Phillips' defense in San Diego and played well but he's 34. After being a starter his last team made no effort to sign him.

3. Randall knows less about the system and costs more. Lemar was set to make one million dollars, Randall was signed for 1.3 million dollars. Less is truly more.

4. Randall's been on the market since March and no one made a move and his chief selling points appear to be he lives in Atlanta, he's friends with Phillip Daniels and he played one season for Tennessee when Gregg Williams was defensive coordinator. Gregg has not been in Tennessee since the 2000 season.

5. The Redskins defense sunk to number 31 overall in 2006 in part on the weakness of the linebackers. Change that to read 'in part on the weakness of everybody' and you have it right. If that's the bar for staying or getting cut then goodbye Carlos Rogers, Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington, Andre Carter and Joe Salave'a.

So the rub is that Randall is an experienced strongside linebacker and can hold the fort until Marcus Washington is back. Lemar is a natural middle linebacker, where he played in 2005 and 2006 but has been replaced in the starting lineup by London Fletcher. In 2004 Lemar filled in for the 'injured' LaVar Arrington on the weakside and the team is concerned the strongside will suffer with Lemar at the position.

Granted Lemar has something of a learning curve for strongside, but is it that steep? At this point he's been playing defensive football for half his life or more and probably has picked up a thing or two about linebacking and besides, he's been in this system all four years it's been in place! Apparently he is not big enough to hold down that position.

The subtext is that Dallas Sartz and HB Blades are promising and there is youth at the linebacking position. In two preseason games and in the press I have yet to see either player near the top of the depth chart. HB was a strongside linebacker in college but moved to middle his junior year at Pitt and improved dramatically. Conclusion?

Dallas was a three year starter at strongside linebacker at USC but missed parts of his junior and senior season with a shoulder injury. So he is in the pipeline for that position and sizewise Dallas is hardly bigger than Lemar, listed at 6-4 226 to Lemar's 6-2 225. Conclusion?

Good luck Lemar, thanks for the hitting, we wish you well. At least we get one cool thing out of Randall Godfrey, a nickname. Since he owns a funeral home we can call him Six Feet Under.

Lemar Marshall: John McDonnell / Washington Post from here.