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Ten Questions: Rob Jackson’s Status

How the Redskins will adjust to Jackson’s suspension for the first four games of the season is the No. 10 question in our countdown to the start of training camp.

BY ZAC BOYER

With the Redskins set to begin training camp on July 25, we’ll count down the top 10 questions the team faces heading into the season. Today:

10. How will Rob Jackson’s suspension affect the Redskins?

Rob Jackson was set to become a restricted free agent for the first time in March when he signed a one-year contract with a $715,000 base salary. The terms of the contract, at the time, were eye-raising; Jackson finished with 37 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles, all career highs, as he made 14 starts at right outside linebacker last season in place of an injured Brian Orakpo.

Jackson

It seemed as though Jackson, given his performance, could have earned a longer deal or at least more money even as a restricted free agent. He demonstrated in the second half of the season that he can be a viable threat as a pass rusher, and he improved on his ability to drop into coverage. But Orakpo’s impending return, as well as the continued development of fellow starter Ryan Kerrigan, appears to have left Jackson without regular playing time.

Then the news came from the league offices later that month that Jackson would be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season for a violation of the drug policy – a fact that Mike Shanahan later said the team was made aware of while negotiating Jackson’s contract. Jackson attributed the positive test to his use of a painkilling medication containing codeine, a banned substance, for a toothache he battled in early December.

Jackson, entering his sixth season, never started a game for the Redskins before filling in for Orakpo and bounced between the active roster and the practice squad during his first three years in Washington. At the very least, he asserted himself as a viable backup last season, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said near the end of the team’s minicamp late last month that he was already working on ways to get Orakpo, Kerrigan and Jackson on the field at the same time.

Despite the suspension, Jackson will be able to practice throughout training camp and is permitted to play during the preseason. The Redskins have Week 5 off, meaning Jackson won’t be able to return to action until Oct. 13 at Dallas. In the meantime, the Redskins will have Bryan Kehl able to slot in as the top reserve, and fifth-round draft pick Brandon Jenkins, a converted defensive end out of Florida State, could work his way into the rotation as well. They’ll also enter the season with Vic So’oto and newcomer Darryl Tapp, who spent the last three seasons with the Eagles, on the roster.

But Kerrigan has missed only nine snaps in his first two-years, and Orakpo is also capable of playing every down. Jackson, as the top backup at outside linebacker in 2011, averaged 5.5 snaps a game that season. Any of the backups should be able to handle that responsibility.

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