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Commanders have two of the NFL’s top-ranked linebackers

When was the last time the Washington Commanders had a linebacker considered one of the best 32 in the NFL?

You’d probably have to look back at London Fletcher’s final seasons; he retired after the 2013 season.

Yes, Ryan Kerrigan played outside linebacker in Washington’s 3-4 defense over the years, but he was a pass rusher, not a traditional linebacker. Ron Rivera was Washington’s coach over the past four seasons, while Jack Del Rio was the defensive coordinator. With those two in charge, you’d think the Commanders would have had excellent linebackers, considering they were both very good NFL linebackers.

Rivera and Del Rio struggled to field good linebackers and largely ignored the position, except for drafting Jamin Davis in 2021.

New head coach Dan Quinn understands the importance of good linebacker play, and so does GM Adam Peters. In the early stages of NFL free agency in March, Washington signed Frankie Luvu (Panthers) and future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner (Seahawks).

Suddenly, Washington’s linebacking unit was formidable.

Pro Football Focus thinks so, too.

PFF continued its series by ranking the 32 best players at each position, most recently covering linebacker. Wagner (No. 20) and Luvu (No. 21) were included in the top 32.

Here’s what PFF said about Wagner:

Wagner is about to turn 34 and has just one season with a PFF coverage grade above 70.0 since 2018, but he remains one of the best run defenders in football. He has earned 90.0-plus PFF run-defense grades in three of the past four seasons — and six of the past eight.

And Luvu:

While he is somewhat limited in coverage, with his 67.7 PFF coverage grade in 2023 the high mark of his career, Luvu has become one of the better run defenders over the past three seasons and is an effective blitzer. He racked up 20 or more pressures in each of the past two seasons.

Peters and Quinn have completely transformed the linebacker position. Wagner and Luvu are two of Washington’s most important players. Luvu’s versatility will allow the Commanders to also use him as a pass rusher. Wagner’s impact has already been felt for his leadership skills.

Washington’s new linebackers — along with Quinn and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. — will have the Commanders playing much better defense in 2024.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire