Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Veteran pass-rusher John Abraham has one outside linebacker position on lockdown. He led the team with 11.5 sacks in 2013, a bit of a surprise considering he wasn't a full-time starter until Week 4 after Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and Alex Okafor all went down with season-ending injuries.
The other spot, however, remains an open competition for now.
Acho, Alexander and Okafor all have a shot at the position—as does Matt Shaughnessy, who started opposite Abraham after the injuries. All of them do different things well, so this one could be a split position all year depending on the situation.
It is in the team’s best interest to keep Abraham on the field as much as possible, so in order to get everyone some playing time, the other side may have to be where that happens.
On passing downs, for example, Acho may be the best option based on his upside as a pass-rusher and his ability in coverage—he was the second-best 3-4 outside linebacker in coverage for the 2012 season, according to PFF.
In bigger offensive packages when a run is imminent, Shaughnessy would be the likely choice. He tied Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston for fifth against the run last year, again via PFF.
Realistically, the position will come down to Shaughnessy and Acho, as Alexander could move to inside linebacker to help with depth, and Okafor is still an unknown. Rookie Kareem Martin won’t start at outside linebacker, but the team wants to get him snaps there throughout the season, according to the man himself (h/t Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds):
I’m coming in here expecting to play. That’s the thing. I came in here, whatever team I was going to go to, I was expecting to contribute right away, so if I get to play early, it’s just what I expected to do the whole time. […]
I’ll be rushing a little bit from the outside, but I think I’ll mainly be playing defensive end.