It is no secret that the linebacker position was a weakness for the Washington Football Team in 2020. For a unit ranked No. 2 in total defense in the NFL, WFT struggled in the middle.
That's why it decided to upgrade the position during the 2021 NFL Draft. Jamin Davis was added and is expected to add speed. He joins Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb as they attempt to completely solidify what is expected to again be one of the best defenses in the league.
Washington will have one of - if not the - best defense in the NFC East. But that's mainly because of a ferocious front four led by Chase Young. Where does WFT's new-and-improved group of linebackers compare within the division?
Let's rank 'em ...
4. Philadelphia Eagles
What a fall it has been in Philadelphia. From Super Bowl champions to complete rebuild including a new head coach and starting quarterback. In 2020, the Eagles showed problems on both sides of the ball, especially their linebackers.
Alex Singleton led the team in tackles, while T.J. Edwards showed some promise. His inability to cover might cost him a starting job this season. Philadelphia will be looking for Shaun Bradley, a sixth-round pick in 2020, and free-agent Eric Wilson to step up.
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Davion Taylor and JaCoby Stephens, who played safety at LSU, will also be in the mix. The Eagles have a veteran defensive line and that only improved with the addition of Ryan Kerrigan. This is one area that is not a question mark but the same cannot be said about the linebackers.
All eyes will be on first-year head coach Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts under center. As the year goes on, it will hard to ignore the holes on the defensive side of the ball.
3. New York Giants
The third spot on this list is a coin flip and could be changed by the end of the season. Entering training camp, the Giants have less expectations at the linebacker position.
Blake Martinez is a proven commodity and one of the most underrated players in the league. He has totaled 100 or more tackles in each of the last four seasons and it is likely that he does it again in 2021. After Martinez, there is a gap in talent.
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Reggie Ragland or Tae Crowder will play next to Martinez. New York is expecting Crowder to win the job and take over one of the inside positions. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines will have to improve this year. Second-round pick Azeez Ojulari is an intriguing name to watch who could compete for a starting spot.
There is a high ceiling for this unit in New York, but for now it's merely potential.
2. Washington Football Team
Will the addition of Davis make that much of a difference? Given his speed and coverage ability, WFT is counting on it.
Davis has a chance to make an impact right away. Holcomb has continued to improve early in his career and that will only increase as he plays behind Davis. As far as Bostic, he is a veteran with experience and intelligence who has proven to be productive when not asked to do too much.
Behind Young and Montez Sweat, the linebacking group only has to improve a little to make a big impact.
1. Dallas Cowboys
Injuries have been a concern, but Dallas still tops the division because of its eleite personnel. The Cowboys already featured a talented group, and that was only improved during the draft.
They selected Micah Parsons with their first-round pick and have stated that he was the No. 1 defensive player on their draft board. He was most experts' top-rated linebacker in the draft, and is expected to be a Day 1 starter in the middle. Quietly, the Cowboys' believe LSU's Jabril Cox, a fourth-round selection, could be the steal of the draft because of his athleticism and versatility.
Those promising rookies join a proven unit led by Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Smith shows flashes of being an elite playmaker, while Vander Esch was a burgeoning superstar only derailed by numerous injuries. When healthy and on their game, they are one of the NFL's flashiest dynamic duos among linebackers.
And let’s not forget Keanu Neal, signed as a free agent and, though slated to play safety, has a track record at linebacker in Atlanta under new Cowboys' defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Star power. Depth. Playmaking. The Cowboys check all the boxes in the middle of the defense.