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Who will start at inside linebacker for the Redskins in 2016?

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Who will start at inside linebacker for the Redskins in 2016?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 13

Who will start at inside linebacker? 

Tandler: I don’t think that this is a very hard question, really. The two guys who finished in the middle in 2015 were doing a very good job and I see them being back as the starters in 2016.

Mason Foster was picked up during the season when some injuries hit and he moved into the starting job at Moe linebacker in the latter part of the season after Perry Riley was injured. I don’t want to say that there is cause and effect here but the Redskins went on a four-game winning streak to finish the season and wrap up the NFC East title. Foster picked up the defense quickly and made 26 tackles.

Will Compton did not start the year at the top of the depth chart either. He started two games early in the year when Riley went out with a calf injury, returned to a reserve role for a few weeks, and then grabbed the starting job in midseason and didn’t give it up. He’s a Scot McCloughan type of player, not the biggest or the fastest but smart and hard working. There are flaws in Compton’s game but nobody will spend more time in the film room and on the practice field trying to correct them.

What about the two players who started the season at inside linebacker? Keenan Robinson proved to be a bad fit in Joe Barry’s scheme and is likely to leave as a free agent. Perry Riley has a $5 million cap number and he may be released. It certainly would be hard for him to take a backup role at that cap number.

RELATED: Only a handful of starters will be left from 2012 Redskins team

El-Bashir: Thanks to the emergence of Will Compton and Mason Foster in the second half of 2015, the Redskins are in better shape at inside linebacker than they are at other positions on defense. Compton and Foster put up solid numbers as individuals and, almost as important, showed good chemistry as a tandem. Because of that, they’ve earned the right to be penciled in as the starters as offseason activity picks up (assuming, of course, Foster re-signs, which appears likely).

But I’m not 100-percent sure that GM Scot McCloughan sees the position as settled. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if McCloughan signs a young(ish) potential starter in free agency or invests a draft pick at inside backer. That’s not a knock on Compton and/or Foster, I just get the sense that the organization is open to upgrading the position…for the right price, that is.

Keenan Robinson began 2015 as a starter but finished the season by watching all but four snaps against the Packers from the sideline. Due to become a free agent, a fresh start elsewhere might be needed.

Perry Riley, meanwhile, was inconsistent early in '15 but played some of his best football in the second half, once it became clear that his grasp on a starting job was slipping. Then he suffered a broken foot during practice in early December and did not see the field again. He’s due to count $5 million against the salary cap next season and the Redskins can save $4 million by cutting him. 

There’s also Martrell Spaight to consider. The fifth round pick missed almost all of his rookie year with a concussion, so expecting him to come in a challenge for a starting job would seem to be a stretch. Coaches do, however, like his long-term potential.

So, as you see, there are a lot moving parts. I suspect Compton and Foster will get the chance to reclaim their starting jobs in ’16. But they may have to fight off a challenger (or three) in order to stay on top of the depth chart. 

25 Questions series

MORE REDSKINS: Former Redskins K Gano hopes to deliver winning field goal in Super Bowl

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 22, 20 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 underrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/29/17

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. Here, in no particular order, are three underrated events from 2017. Tomorrow we’ll look at three events that were overrated at the time they happened.  

Beating the Rams in Week 2—Nobody got particularly excited when the Redskins went to the LA Memorial Coliseum and beat a Rams team that had gone 4-12 in 2016. Sure, there was a belief that they were in good hands with Sean McVay but nobody saw them as anything better than a middle of the pack team. The win looks much more impressive now as the 11-4 Rams have locked up their division with a playoff game in their future.

Drafting safety Montae Nicholson—He was a fourth-round pick who had a shoulder injury and appeared to be a reach. But once he got on the field, the reasons the Redskins drafted him became apparent. His range and hard hitting had an immediate impact on the game. Nicholson had problems staying on the field and he will finish the year on IR, so his impact this year was diminished. Regardless, he has a good chance of being part of the solution to a position with which the Redskins have had issues for years.

Ty Nsekhe’s injury—Against the Raiders in Week 3, Shawn Lauvao’s facemask had an issue and he had to leave the game for a play. In came Nsekhe without an opportunity to warm up. He suffered a core muscle injury and had to undergo surgery. His absence didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but Trent Williams suffered a knee injury the next week and other offensive linemen were sidelined with injuries over the next several weeks. Nsekhe was inactive until the Week 10 game against the Vikings and he didn’t start a game until the Thanksgiving game against the Giants. He sure would have been useful to have in the lineup instead of T.J. Clemmings or Tyler Catalina.

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) 7
—NFL Draft (4/26) 63
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 199

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Miami tagged Jarvis Landry, but what does that mean for the Redskins?

Miami tagged Jarvis Landry, but what does that mean for the Redskins?

Everything in the NFL feels like a powder keg, but the reality of Tuesday's opening of the franchise and transition tag period will play out as much more of a slow burn.

Few teams ever actually make moves on the opening day of the tag period, though the Dolphins bucked that conventional wisdom and used the non-exclusive franchise designation on wide receiver Jarvis Landry. 

Astute Redskins fans know the tag system all too well. Landry can now sign a one-year, fully guaranteed contract with the Dolphins worth more than $16 million, the average of the top-five paid receivers in the NFL.

They can also trade Landry and the compensation discussion with a non-exclusive tag begins at two first-round draft picks, though it can eventually be settled for much less. 

RELATED: BEST AND WORST OF REDSKINS' FIRST-ROUND DRAFT HISTORY

What, if anything, does Miami's move mean for the Redskins? Let's take a look:

  1. Not gonna work here - Landry never really seemed like a great fit for the Redskins as a free agent, and that was before the franchise tag. He's a really good slot WR, but Washington already has that in Jamison Crowder. Whether or not Landry actually gets a deal done with the Dolphins or gets traded, it seems highly unlikely the Redskins are his next team. 
  2. "Spirit of the tag" - Miami putting the tag on Landry so early in the process signals that the team might be trying to trade him instead of actually trying to sign him. If that's the case, and plenty of people are suggesting just that, it would seem to be in contrast with the "spirit of the tag." The idea is that a franchise or transition tag is supposed to be used as a tool by an NFL franchise to get a long-term deal done with one of their own players facing free agency. Using the tag as a mechanism to pull of a trade seems very different. Why does any of this matter for Redskins fans? As reports emerged that Washington might look to use a tag on Kirk Cousins and work to trade him, the Cousins camp has made clear they would file a grievance against that technique. Why? Because it would violate the spirit of the tag. Well, it sure looks like Miami is doing the same thing, and as of now, nobody has complained. The situations aren't identical; few resemble the Redskins long, slow, awkward dance with Cousins. But it's certainly worth monitoring. 
  3. Wide Receiver$ - The Redskins could use a veteran wideout to help their young group of Crowder and Josh Doctson. Well, with Landry getting tagged, the price tag just went up. The player that seems to make the most sense in Washington would be Jaguars wideout Allen Robinson. Coming off a knee injury in 2017, some thought Robinson could be signed on a somewhat team-friendly deal. If Landry can get franchised after a season where he didn't even get to 1,000 yards receiving, any thought of a team-friendly deal for Robinson is dead. Make no mistake, Landry and Robinson are good players, but the ever-increasing NFL salary cap will make both young receivers very well paid. 

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