Am I a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end?
That’s the question that has been floating around Markus White’s mind the past few weeks.
He got his answer Tuesday, when the Washington Redskins — reeling after the season-ending injury to outside linebacker Brian Orakpo last Sunday against the St. Louis Rams — signed White from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad to their active roster.
White, of course, is a familiar face to Redskins fans. He was selected by Washington in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft and spent the entire season on the Redskins’ active roster, appearing in two games as an outside linebacker.
He remained with the team through the offseason and this preseason before he was waived by the Redskins during final cuts Aug. 31. He signed with the Buccaneers four days later and was headed on a path as a 4-3 defensive end before the Redskins came calling again with a need at outside linebacker.
“It’s good to be back,” White said. “It’s where I started out, and I didn’t feel like I fully accomplished everything I wanted to. Just being able to have another shot, I want to take advantage this time around.”
A two-year starter at defensive end at Florida State, White was one of two rookies (with Ryan Kerrigan) to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker for the team last season.
Though Kerrigan — the Redskins’ first-round (16th overall) selection in the 2011 NFL Draft — became an immediate starter, White still impressed coaches with his ability to quickly pick up the position, which requires covering tight ends and receivers as well as getting in the opposing team’s backfield.
And even though the Redskins released White on Aug. 31, head coach Mike Shanahan said he remained on their radar before and after Orakpo’s season-ending injury.
“It was one of the reasons we let him go initially,” Shanahan told reporters. “We were hoping to get him on the practice squad, and people talked him into him maybe being better suited for a four-man front [at Tampa Bay].”
Shanahan said White was more than willing to jump at a chance for playing time at outside linebacker with the Redskins moving forward, however.
“Obviously, when [Orakpo] went down, [White] looked at our situation and knew he would get a chance to come in here and play and play quickly,” Shanahan said. “So I’m glad he is back and I think he will help us out.”
White said he became “mentally stronger” after getting waived by the Redskins and going through a couple of weeks of practice with the Buccaneers.
“I mean, you get cut, and that’s the name of the business,” White said. “You have to go somewhere else to perform, and if someone else wants to take you, pick you up and give you a shot, you’ve got to be able to perform at any level under any circumstance. That’s how I took it, and I went to the next spot and I tried to do the same things I did here and improve in every aspect.”
White is among a trio of outside linebackers that includes Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson that will compete for playing time in Orakpo’s absence.
White said not one player can replace Orakpo’s on-the-field performance — which has included two Pro-Bowl selections in three years — but that the entire unit will bust its tail trying to do just that.
“When he goes down, Coach has got to figure out a way to replace that guy in maybe a scheme or anything they can do, any package they can do, to make that presence still felt,” White said. “So, as a team, we’re going to come together and do everything possible to play this defense at the maximum level we can.”
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