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Redskins position preview: Inside linebacker

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Redskins position preview: Inside linebacker

Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart now that the team’s offseason program has concluded. Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Sept. 5.

So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …

Position: Inside linebacker.

On the roster: Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley, Will Compton, Adam Hayward, Martrell Spaight, Ja’Gared Davis, Terrance Plummer, Dyshawn Davis and Alonzo Highsmith.

Likely to make the 53: Robinson, Riley, Compton, Hayward and Spaight.

Comment: Unlike outside linebacker and safety, which we discussed here and here, there probably won’t be much training camp drama at inside linebacker. Robinson and Riley are the returning starters and Compton, once again, figures to be the primary backup at both spots. Can Compton press for more playing time? Perhaps. That could be something to keep an eye on as camp heats up in Richmond.

Another area to monitor later this summer is Robinson’s development as he enters his second season as a starter. Robinson, who turns 26 next month, led the team in tackles in 2014, despite missing three games due to a knee injury. He also made strides as the play-caller on defense. But there’s more—a lot more—that he's capable of doing, at least in the eyes of linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.

“He has the big picture stuff down,” Olivadotti said of Robinson. “And he works he works his butt off at that. Really, it’s the details of footwork and angles to the ball and what shoulder am I tackling with? Those are the little things that he can exponentially get better at, and it will raise his level of play a lot.”

Battling for a job: Spaight, J. Davis, Plummer, D. Davis and Highsmith.

Comment: If the Redskins keep five inside linebackers as they did in 2014, that likely means there will be one spot available.

Last season, Robinson and Riley rarely came off the field when healthy, while Compton started five games as an injury replacement. Hayward, meantime, saw just 14 snaps on defense while serving as special teams captain.

Spaight would seem to have the inside track, considering he was drafted in the fifth round by new GM Scot McCloughan. Spaight was also praised by Coach Jay Gruden for his tenacity on special teams during OTAs and minicamp.

It should also be noted that Ja’Gared Davis was listed as Riley’s backup late last season, though he didn't see the field on defense. He was, however, among the few Redskins who earned a positive rating on special teams from ProFootballFocus.com, which credited him with five tackles.

As for the others, they’ll need a strong showing once the pads are put on in order to join the conversation.

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 23, 19 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The overrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/30/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Yesterday we looked at three events that were underrated at the time they happened. Here, in no particular order, are three overrated events from 2017.

Beating the Raiders—At the time, the Raiders were 2-0 and they still had the status of being one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl. The Redskins whipped them 27-10 and the prevailing view was that the Redskins were on their way to a special year. But that loss started a four-game losing streak for the Raiders. They are currently riding a three-game skid and at 6-9 they are contenders for a top-10 draft pick, not for the Super Bowl. The win became less impressive for the Redskins as the year went on.

Signing Terrelle Pryor—There was plenty of excitement when the Redskins signed the Browns wide receiver, who had 1,000 receiving yards catching passes from a sub-mediocre group of quarterbacks in Cleveland. Imagine what he could do with a quality QB and a good offense around him. The hype grew when a fan captured him making this catch in training camp:

But the production was not there. In nine games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury, Pryor caught 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.

Su’a Cravens departure—There was a lot of concern about issues both on and off the field when Cravens abruptly let it be known to teammates that he intended to retire just after the Redskins finalized their 53-man roster on September 2. All offseason Cravens’ name had been written at the top of the depth chart at strong safety in Sharpie. When he walked away and was put on the Exempt/Left Squad list (and eventually on the Reserve/Left Squad list, ending his season), there was plenty of speculation about whether the organization botched the situation and, of more immediate importance, what would happen at safety without Cravens. We’re still not sure about what happened but Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett did a respectable job at safety.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 6
—NFL Draft (4/26) 62
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 198