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Who Will Win Washington Redskins' Inside Linebacker Battle?

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Who Will Win Washington Redskins' Inside Linebacker Battle?
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Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was one of the few coaches spared when owner Daniel Snyder chose to fire head coach Mike Shanahan following last season's dismal 3-13 record.

Despite owning a defense that surrendered 29.9 points per game in 2013, it appears that the 'Skins won't be trotting out very many new starters in 2014.

Of the team's 11 defensive starters from last season, eight still remain on the roster, with Reed Doughty, Josh Wilson and London Fletcher the lone holdouts.

While new signees Ryan Clark and Jason Hatcher, along with sophomore cornerback David Amerson, are sure bets to join the team's returnees in the starting lineup, a battle will have to commence to fill the void Fletcher left.

Enter Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton.

While Keenan Robinson and Adam Hayward are also vying for the starting gig, their lack of game experience makes the battle to replace Fletcher just a two-man race.

An on-an-off starter since he entered the league out of James Madison, Jordan tied a career high for games started with the Kansas City Chiefs last season.

In 16 games (10 starts), Jordan tallied 67 tackles and two forced fumbles. Although these numbers are middling, Jordan was only a two-down player in Kansas City.

Tasked with stopping the run, as ESPN's John Keim notes, "Jordan showed good vision in tracking the ball, enabling him to make stops and his hand placement allowed him to shed blocks quickly."

Then there's Jordan's tackling. According to Pro Football Focus (via SB Nation), Jordan was second among inside linebackers in tackling efficiency last season:

Akeem_medium

It's no wonder that Jordan's former head coach, Andy Reid, praised him for his reliability.

Joining a Washington defense that was plagued by missed tackles and ranked 17th in run defense last season, Jordan certainly fills a need.

Pitted against the ever-reliable Jordan is the injury-prone Sharpton.

Prior to playing in a career-high 15 games (starting eight) in 2013, Sharpton hadn't eclipsed 12 games played in any of his four NFL seasons.

Finally healthy, with an opportunity to play in the wake of Brian Cushing's injury, Sharpton registered 87 tackles last season.

What separates Sharpton in this position battle, though, is his athleticism.

A staunch run defender, like Jordan, Sharpton is also capable of covering tight ends and running backs.

Ultimately, as a potential three-down linebacker, Sharpton should be the player Haslett installs next to Perry Riley.

With Jordan as the fail-safe option, in the event of another untimely Sharpton injury, Washington should be well-prepared for its seven games in 2014 versus the NFL's top 10 running backs from a season ago.

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