The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.
When Reuben Foster collapsed to the Ashburn turf in May, time stopped for a second. Signing Foster brought such outrage towards the Washington team, and after being cleared by the NFL for the 2019 season, it seemed like the worst was behind Foster and the Redskins.
Then, in a blur, he was lost for the season with an ACL tear.
The 2019 rebuilt Redskins defense lost a key cog before he ever even played a game, and suddenly a mediocre linebacking group from 2018 was largely back in the fold. Foster represented a potential game-breaking talent, a former first-round pick with elite pedigree in college. Add in the fact that the Redskins released Zach Brown before free agency, and the group looked humble.
So going into training camp, one of the most intriguing position groups on the team now looks similar to 2018.
Mason Foster will start at one inside linebacker spot. Write that in Sharpie. And despite some public dustups with fans via social media, Foster is a team leader and a sure tackler. He's lost weight to help in coverage this year, and twice in the last three years has totaled more than 120 tackles. Of all the worries on the Redskins roster, Mason Foster isn't one of them.
After Reuben Foster went down, the team signed former second-round pick Jon Bostic. He's bounced around in his NFL career, as the Redskins will mark his fifth team in six years, but since he's landed in a 3-4 scheme, he's found his game. In the past two seasons with the Steelers and the Colts, Bostic proved highly capable as a run defender. On pass downs, he probably needs to come off the field.
That's where things get interesting.
Reuben Foster was the one player that coaches expected to be able to stay on the field for all three downs. Mason Foster might be able to, and it's too early to really determine what best suits Shaun Dion Hamilton.
In just his second year out of Alabama, and a year removed from a major knee injury, Hamilton could emerge as the starter next to Foster. He could emerge as a capable cover linebacker. But he didn't quite show enough last season to be confident in that assessment.
Josh Harvey-Clemons will be the nickel linebacker, and watching him in minicamp, he finally looks like an NFL linebacker. Harvey-Clemons played safety in college at Louisville, and his first two seasons in Washington seemed like he didn't have the bulk to play in the front seven. If he's really added muscle, it will show up in Richmond.
Then there's rookie Cole Holcomb. A speed 'backer that should make the team, Holcomb needs to learn to play instinctually. It won't be easy, but if it comes quick, his speed could make plays.
Add it all up and the Redskins linebacker looks solid, but not spectacular. Reuben Foster was supposed to be that special piece, but he definitely won't play this season.
If the defensive front plays as well as many think they're capable of, that could change things for the linebackers. And of course, players get better every year. Maybe Hamilton or Harvey-Clemons is on the verge of a breakout.
That's why they practice and train all offseason, and that's what the fans will be watching for in Richmond.
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