A report by Paul Woody for the Times-Dispatch.
At 5-feet-8 inches tall and 200 pounds, Nico Marley would seem an excellent candidate to play second base at any level of baseball or point guard on a Division III basketball team.
But inside linebacker in the NFL?
It’s certainly not against the law to have an inside linebacker that size, although the laws of physics — weight is the measure of gravity acting on an object; force is directly proportional to mass and acceleration — might come into play, and not in a positive way for Marley.
This is Marley’s major problem in making the Washington Redskins’ 53-man roster, because the Tulane product and grandson of reggae music legend Bob Marley can play the game.
He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He listens to coaches and takes advice from veteran teammates.
After an uninspiring performance by his team Thursday in a preseason game against Baltimore, Redskins coach Jay Gruden was animated when asked about Marley — Nico, not Bob — and his sack in the second half.
“He popped up, didn’t he?” Gruden said, his voice rising as he smiled. “He’s an energetic fireplug, that’s for sure. He makes plays. He has to continue to do it.”
While it’s not clear that a 5-8, 200-pounder can be a “fireplug,” it is true that Marley “pops up.”
“He’s very instinctive,” Gruden said. “At his size, you have to have great leverage, and he does. He’s a good player, very productive.”
Marley gave an example of that leverage in practice Saturday when he was locked up with a 6-8, 328-pound offensive lineman, and it was the lineman who fell backward onto the ground.
No matter what anyone says, no matter his instinct, Marley always will be 5-8 and weigh 200 pounds. Such size is a drawback for someone trying to make an NFL roster at inside linebacker. A total solar eclipse is not necessary to block out the sun when a 300-pound lineman is looming over Marley.
“He’s already shut up a lot of naysayers,” Gruden said. “I’m not going to say he has no chance (to make the roster). Every player here has a chance or he wouldn’t be here.
“We’re going to compete to the very end. Special teams will be huge for him, as will how the other guys do in front of him.”
Then, Gruden mentioned all the guys in front of Marley and how they played against Baltimore.
“Zach Brown played well. (Will) Compton played well. Mason Foster had a heck of a game. I thought Josh Harvey-Clemens stepped in and made some big plays. (Zach) Vigil made some good plays,” Gruden said.
“There’s lots of guys at middle linebacker, and it’s great competition.”
The good news is that by using two inside linebackers, the Redskins need at least four players at the position. The less-than-heartening news is Gruden, in one quick take, named five players who performed well.
If Marley becomes a member of the practice squad, he’ll give the team good looks as a middle linebacker, cornerback and strong safety on the scout team — practice squad players have to be versatile.
He might gain a few pounds and add to his strength with a season and an offseason in the weight room.
Basically, he’s always going to be 5-8, 200. He’s always going to be outweighed by offensive linemen by a minimum of 100 pounds.
But if Marley winds up on the practice squad, attrition, always a factor over the grueling NFL season, might give him a chance for a promotion during the 2017 season.
Destiny isn’t dictated by attitude or genetics, but Marley counts on them. His father, Rohan, played linebacker at the University of Miami with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp.
And when the younger Marley looks in the mirror, he doesn’t see a 5-8, 200-pound underdog going against players who are comparative behemoths.
“I don’t see them as bigger,” Marley said. “I see myself as bigger. You’ve got to be better than me.”
And while the topic of his size gets old — “It should be by now, wouldn’t you say?” Marley said — he does not grow weary of talking about his grandfather.
“Never,” he said. “I love his music.”
The issue now is whether the Redskins and Bob Marley’s grandson, who does not sing, will make beautiful music together.