Countdown to OTAs: Injuries on defense

Countdown to OTAs: Injuries on defense
May 16, 2013, 10:00 am
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Next Monday, Redskins Park will be abuzz as organized team activities (OTAs) get underway. For the first time since January, the parking lots will be full. The practice fields, weight and locker rooms, too, as coaches, veteran players and prospects officially begin their preparations for the 2013 NFL season.

In the meantime, we’re going address some of the offseason-related questions we’re hearing from fans. Up today...

Question: How are the injured starters on defense coming along? And what will they be able to do during OTAs and minicamp?

Answer: In the span of a few weeks last season, the Redskins lost a starting safety, a starting defensive end and a starting outside linebacker.

The effect, as one might imagine, was devastating for the unit, which saw its pass rush evaporate and its secondary get picked apart. As a result, the unit finished the season mired near the bottom of the NFL in many statistical categories.

And although it’s been five months since the season-ending loss to Seattle, the status of Washington’s injured players, particularly on ‘D’, remains a major storyline as the team begins to ramp up its offseason program. Here’s a rundown of the players who warrant monitoring:

  • Brian Orakpo. The pass-rushing linebacker said earlier this month that he's 100-percent recovered from a second surgery on his left pectoral muscle and expects to be full-go next week. What are the chances of him suffering a similar injury a third time? It’s got to be remote. Either way, keep an eye on him.
  • London Fletcher. The venerable linebacker avoided surgeries for 15 seasons. No such luck this offseason, though, as he was forced to undergo procedures on his ailing left ankle and an elbow. With Ronde Barber retiring, Fletcher is set to inherit the longest active streak for consecutive games (it’s 240 in a row now). But first he's got to get on the field.
  • Adam Carriker. Lost for the season in Week 2 to a torn quadriceps tendon, the defensive end suffered a setback in his recovery several months back, according to Coach Mike Shanahan. Everyone will be interested to get an update on his status given how sorely his pass rush ability (5.5 sacks in 2011) was missed.
  • Brandon Meriweather. Talk about bad luck. Twice he injured his knee in freak accidents. Then he suffered a torn ACL in his Week 11 return. He’s reportedly is on schedule to return in training camp. Doesn't sound like he'll be on the field much, if at all, in OTAs and minicamp.
  • Keenan Robinson. The 23-year-old linebacker whom the Redskins are grooming to perhaps replace Fletcher was lost for the season on Thanksgiving after suffering an Orakpo-like pectoral tear. Shanahan said late last month that it's possible he’ll be ready for OTAs.
  • Reed Doughty. The safety is recovering from a toe injury that’s similar to Helu’s. Shanahan said last month that he should be recovered sufficiently in time to participate this week.
  • Josh Wilson. The veteran cornerback was hampered by a shoulder for much of the second half of last season. We’ll ask next week if he needed an offseason procedure to correct the problem.
  • Jordan Bernstine. After suffering a devastating knee injury in the opener last season, the second-year safety told late last month that he’s aiming for training camp. With the addition of Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, he's got to be feeling pressure to get on the field ASAP.
  • Chase Minnifield. The cornerback impressed coaches with a strong offseason last summer. But a torn ACL ended his rookie season before it began. He also hopes to be ready for training camp, where he will compete for a job in a suddenly crowded defensive backfield.
  • Chris Neild. The backup nose tackle suffered a torn ACL in training camp last season. He’s been rehabbing at Redskins Park since, but his status for OTAs is unclear. We’ll ask about him, too.

Right now, it may seem like there are more questions than answers. That, however, will change in the coming weeks. So stay tuned.

Best-case scenario: Meriweather's recovery remains on track this summer and he's able to bridge the gap to Thomas and/or Rambo.  

Worst-case scenario: Orakpo isn't quite right. With Rob Jackson set to serve a four-game suspension to start the season, the Redskins really need Orakpo quickly regain confidence in his pectoral/shoulder and pick up where he left off.