Next up on the docket for my top Redskins players series are the linebackers. The ‘Skins historically have had some solid inside linebackers capable of both stopping the run and being reliable in coverage. However, for this list, I will also be including outside linebackers/pass rushers, as the Redskins have run a 3-4 defense the past ten years. Whether it be a true defensive signal-caller like London Fletcher or a versatile pass rusher like Ryan Kerrigan, the ‘Skins linebacking units have been tough to match-up against over the years. With that being said, here’s my list for the ten best linebackers in Redskins history.
1. Chris Hanburger
As it has been with most of my lists, the top spot shouldn’t be up for debate. Hanburger played in Washington for the entirety of his 14-year NFL career. After being mainly a backup in his first season, Hanburger became the Washington defense’s leader and started nearly every game he was healthy and available for. Hanburger was a nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time 1st Team All-Pro throughout his illustrious Hall of Fame career. Sadly, Hanburger’s only trip to a Super Bowl came in 1972 when the Redskins would lose to the undefeated Miami Dolphins. Although he never won a championship, Hanburger certainly played a career worthy of one.
2. Ryan Kerrigan
Since coming into the league in 2011, Ryan Kerrigan has quietly been of the best and most consistent pass rushers in all of football. Only Von Miller, Chandler Jones, and J.J. Watt have more sacks over the past nine seasons than Kerrigan. He has recorded 90 sacks in his career and is only 1.5 sacks shy of breaking Dexter Manley’s all-time franchise record. Kerrigan has been a model of consistency throughout his career, averaging ten sacks per season. He is a four-time Pro Bowler and one of the best linebackers in Redskins history. Although he might be playing in a reduced role this season thanks to the team drafting Chase Young, Kerrigan still seems to have a few years left in the tank.
3. London Fletcher
London Fletcher enjoyed a long and successful 16-year career in the NFL. He played the first nine seasons of his career in St. Louis and Buffalo before joining the Redskins for his final seven seasons. It would be in Washington where Fletcher would play the best football of his career. Fletcher would make the first Pro Bowl of his career at age 34 in 2009 and was selected for each of the next three seasons. His best season came in 2011 when he led the NFL with 166 tackles. Fletcher was the leader of every defense he played for, calling the defensive plays and firing up his teammates on the field. He ranks 7th all-time on the NFL’s iron man list, as Fletcher played and started in 215 consecutive games, a task not easy for any NFL player, let alone a linebacker.
4. Monte Coleman
Monte Coleman was never a consistent starter for the Redskins, but his contributions to the franchise should not go unnoticed. Coleman takes the #4 spot on this list thanks to his longevity and versatility as a player. He played in the NFL for 16 seasons, all of which came with the Washington Redskins. He was a special teams ace who would play in whatever role he was asked to. Coleman also started at linebacker in many games for the ‘Skins and even led the entire NFL in tackles in 1980. Coleman was a three-time Super Bowl Champion with the Redskins and deserved a high spot on this linebacker ranking.
5. Ken Harvey
After playing his first six seasons with the Cardinals, Ken Harvey broke out onto the scene when he joined the Redskins in 1994. Like London Fletcher, Harvey played the best years of his career late when he joined the Redskins. He immediately made an impact as a starting outside linebacker, racking up sacks and tackles on route to four straight Pro Bowl selections with the team. Harvey’s best season of his career came in 1994 when he recorded 13.5 sacks (a career-high) and 98 combined tackles on the season.
6. Wilber Marshall
Wilber Marshall began his career as a member of the great Bears defense that won the Super Bowl in 1985. He would then become a member of the Washington Redskins in 1988, playing his next five seasons there. Marshall recorded over 107+ tackles in each of the five seasons he played in Washington, with more tackles in each of those seasons than any other season in played in the league. Marshall was the leader of the Redskins defense and helped them win Super Bowl XXVI against the Bills. His best season with the ‘Skins came in 1992 when he was selected to the Pro Bowl and earned a 1st Team All-Pro nod.
7. LaVar Arrington
Arrington was selected out of Penn St. by the Redskins with the 2nd overall pick back in 2000. He would go on to play six years in Washington and was a top linebacker in the league during his prime. He was a disruptive linebacker who could both stop the run and rush the passer. He was one of the best linebackers in the NFL from 2001-2003, making the Pro Bowl in each of those three seasons. Arrington would leave the ‘Skins to sign a massive deal in free agency with the New York Giants in 2006. However, injuries prevented him from playing much that season, and he inevitably retired after only one season in New York.
8. Sam Huff
Sam Huff played 13 seasons in his Hall of Fame career, with his final five coming in a Washington Redskins uniform. In Huff’s first season in the burgundy and gold, he was named to the fifth Pro Bowl of his career and continued to play well until his retirement in 1967. He would later come out of retirement to play one last season for the Redskins in 1969 when Vince Lombardi was named the head coach. Following this season, Huff would become the ‘Skins linebackers’ coach for the 1970 season before taking on a career in broadcasting. He would lend his voice to both the Giants and Redskins radio broadcasts during his time in the booth.
9. Chuck Drazenovich
Chuck Drazenovich was a two-way player for the beginning stages of his career in Washington. He would play a total of nine seasons in the NFL, all of which came with the Redskins. The man played his first five seasons with the team as both a linebacker and rusher before he would begin only playing on the defensive side of the ball in 1955. After making the switch, Drazenovich would make the Pro Bowl in four consecutive seasons, proving that he indeed made the right choice in sticking with one side of the football. Unfortunately, Drazenovich played in an era before tackles were recorded, but we can be sure that be racked up more than a few during his impressive career.
10. Neal Olkewicz
Olkewicz played his college ball at the University of Maryland and didn’t have to travel too far when transitioning to the NFL. He played his entire 11-season career with the Redskins from 1979 to 1989. He was a consistent starter on many of the Redskins teams of the ‘80s that saw great success year in and year out. He was a member of both the 1982 and 1987 Super Bowl Champion teams and contributed significantly to the team during his time. Olkewicz gets the nod over a guy like Brian Orakpo thanks to his longevity and championships won with the team.
Q: Who has the most tackles in Redskins history?
A: Impossible to say. Unfortunately, tackles were not officially recorded as a statistic until the 2001 NFL season, so it is hard to say who definitively has the most tackles in team history. However, I do not think it would be too farfetched to say the Chris Hanburger probably owns this title, as he played middle linebacker for the ‘Skins for 14 years.
Q: Who has the most tackles in a season in Redskins history?
A: London Fletcher. In 2011, Fletcher had the best season of his illustrious 16-year career, recording 166 total tackles. This includes his 96 solo tackles combined with his 70 assisted tackles. His efforts were good enough to lead the league in tackles and earn him a Pro Bowl nod.
Q: Who has the most tackles in a single game in Redskins history?
A: Jessie Armstead. On September 22nd, 2002, in a game against the San Francisco 49ers, Redskins linebacker Jessie Armstead recorded 17 solo tackles in just one game. This was only three shy of the NFL’s record for solo tackles in a game, which is 20.
Q: Who has the most tackles for loss in Redskins history?
A: Ryan Kerrigan. Throughout his nine-year career thus far in a Washington Redskins uniform, Kerrigan has recorded 114 tackles for loss. He has 62 more tackles for loss than the next closest on the list, being Andre Carter. Being an outside linebacker, it is no surprise that Kerrigan holds this record.
Q: Who has the most tackles for loss in a season in Redskins history?
A: Ryan Kerrigan. In the 2016 NFL season, Kerrigan recorded 18 tackles for loss. That number was good for the most in the entire NFL that season. 2016 was also the 2nd time that Kerrigan was selected to the Pro Bowl in his career.
Q: Who has the most tackles for loss in a single game in Redskins history?
A: Andre Carter. On December 13th, 2009, in a game against the Oakland Raiders, Redskins defensive end Andre Carter recorded six tackles for loss in a blowout 34-13 win. Carter’s six TFLs are tied for the most in a single game in NFL history.
Q: Who is the most recent Redskins Pro Bowl linebacker?
A: Ryan Kerrigan. The outside linebacker out of Purdue has made four Pro Bowls throughout his nine-year NFL career, with his most recent selection coming in 2018. Kerrigan could’ve made his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl this past season; however, he was injured and missed a portion of the season.
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