Cole Holcomb ready to ‘take control’ of Commanders’ defense at Mike LB spot

Holcomb ready to 'take control' of Commanders' defense originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Outside of quarterback, the inside linebacker position was where the Washington Commanders concluded the 2021 regular season in need of the most help.

Washington addressed quarterback by trading for veteran Carson Wentz. But for inside linebacker, both free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft came and went without the Burgundy and Gold adding to the unit.

And, with the Commanders’ OTAs set to begin next week, a familiar face is the leader in the clubhouse to man Washington’s Mike linebacker position. That would be veteran Cole Holcomb, who’s played both inside and outside backer for Washington but is ready to take another leap in Year 4.

“I feel like I’m going to take control of this defense and take charge of the Mike spot,” Holcomb said in an interview with Julie Donaldson on the team’s YouTube page. “I’ve been wanting it for a while and I like that responsibility to take control and get everybody lined up, make the adjustments we need to make.”

Throughout his three seasons with Washington, Holcomb has played a variety of positions on the defense. He’s lined up at outside linebacker the most — a position he played a decent amount of once again under Jack Del Rio last season.

It’s atypical for an outside linebacker to be responsible for calling out plays and making pre-snap adjustments on defense, but Holcomb played that exact role at times for Washington in 2021. With Holcomb likely to begin the season as the team’s Mike linebacker, he’s looking forward to wearing the green dot and calling out the defense from the more typical inside position.

“I feel like it helps me being able to call [the defense] at the Mike spot,” he said. “We tried it initially — I was calling the defense from the outside. It was kind of hard to relay a call to the other side of the defense if I’m playing on the outside. So I think it helps a lot in terms of our communication and getting on the same page.”

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Throughout the offseason, Holcomb has received plenty of praise from both Del Rio, head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew. All three of Washington’s big decision makers have spoke glowingly about Holcomb’s ability to play the Mike linebacker position.

“Last year, [Holcomb] took a huge step forward,” Del Rio said last week. “He really played very well. In fact, a lot of the guys that are getting the pub around the league, he played as well or better than. … Don’t sleep on Cole Holcomb. He’s a pretty good football player.”

During the annual league meetings in March, Rivera said the team feels “really good” about Holcomb’s development at the position. One day later, Mayhew echoed Rivera’s statement and said Holcomb’s emergence at the position allows the team to “not [have] a tremendous urgency to go and do something right there.”

The way Washington’s current roster is constructed, there doesn’t seem to be any major challenger to compete with Holcomb for the Mike position. Theoretically, 2021 first-rounder Jamin Davis could fill that role, but the Commanders’ staff has already gone on the record to say they believe Davis’ skill set is better used on the outside.

Of course, the Commanders could still add a few veteran linebackers via free agency, but it doesn’t appear that’s a route the team will go down at this time.

So, at least for now, Washington is counting on Holcomb to take command (no pun intended) of the defense. The 25-year-old is up for the challenge.

“I feel real comfortable [in that position],” Holcomb said. “I was calling the defense all last year. I had a little bit of that responsibility the year before. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in terms of being comfortable in those situations.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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