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The Impact Of Washington's Fearsome Foursome

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Defensive captain and MLB London Fletcher could hold the key to inspiring better defensive play from the Washington Redskins. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images
Defensive captain and MLB London Fletcher could hold the key to inspiring better defensive play from the Washington Redskins. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images

The "Fearsome Foursome" is famously used to describe the 1960s and '70s Los Angeles Rams defensive line. What other units in football have come to do as did the Rams d-line is define a team. What has started to and can potentially define the Washington Redskins is their own version of the "Fearsome Foursome": their linebackers. 

The Redskins have a unique situation at the linebacker positions that could only be rivaled by the linebacking groups in New England and Cincinnati. They have four extremely talented defensive players, with 28 years of colective NFL experience (and counting). These linebackers are London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Perry Riley Jr.

This group can and will be integral in the success of Washington this season. Despite a recouperating quarterback and some line issues, the Redskins' offense has played well enough to be a top 10 overall unit (5th in total yards and 10th in passing and rushing). Now the defense just needs to stop sputtering and help out their teammates playing on the other side of the ball.

This unique linebacking group brings a wide range of skills to the table. Orakpo and Kerrigan are great pass-rushing outside linebackers. They were both defensive ends in college that were converted to the OLB position upon arriving to the NFL. Orakpo, in five NFL seasons, has 32.5 sacks, 187 total tackles and 6 forced fumbles. He is a master of the sack and creates opportunities for turnovers. Kerrigan puts up similarly impressive stats. Now in his third year, he has 21 sacks, 143 total tackles, 8 forced fumbles and 13 pass deflections. Both outside linebackers are well-equiped in terrorizing the quarterback and forcing fumbles. To add to that, Kerrigan is great at blocking passes at the line of scrimmage.

Moving on to the middle linebackers. MLB London Fletcher has been the quintessential pro in his 16 year career. He has been to the Pro Bowl four times, and has incredibly been named as an alternate 11 times. Not to mention he also has 1,977 total career tackles and has never missed an NFL game (Wow). Fletcher is a defensive leader and tackling machine. Since coming into the league, he has experienced everything from playing with awful Buffalo Bills teams, to winning a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams and now seemingly stuck in the middle with a Washington team trying to figure out where they belong. He brings many years of quality experience, toughness and simply outstanding play to the Redskins. Now only if he can inspire his teammates to do the same.

The other middle linebacker, and little known fourth and final starter in this linebacking corps, is Perry Riley Jr. Riley has established himself as a starter over the past few seasons, replacing long time Redskin Rocky McIntosh in 2011. While Riley may not be a household name, he is having an impact on defense. Riley is currently leading the Redskins in tackles this season with 43 - one ahead of Fletcher. And through his four years in the league, he has 12 deflected passes, adding another ball-swater to this linebacking group.

For the few seasons this group has been together, they have individually and collectively played well. Their abilities to tackle, sack, deflect passes and force turnovers is what Washington needs. With such a puzzling and troubling season on their hands, the Redskins need some form of hope. This group of linebackers could possibly be just that. How the New York Giants defensive line has been at the forefront of brillant late season and postseason play in their recent two Super Bowl winning years is what the 'Skins need from Fletcher, Orakpo, Kerrigan and Riley.

Last season, the first with Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garçon, the "Fearsome Foursome" wasn't whole as OLB Orakpo missed 14 games due to a torn pectoral muscle. Now he is healthy, as are the rest of the linebackers. Hopefully they can be the equivalent of those great Giants' defensive lines and inspire some high quality football out of their teammates in the nation's capital.