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10 Training Camp Questions: After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

10 Training Camp Questions: After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

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.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

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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Redskins seek to add linebacker depth by signing Gary Johnson

Redskins seek to add linebacker depth by signing Gary Johnson

The Redskins added some linebacker depth Saturday afternoon by signing former Texas LB Gary Johnson, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.

Johnson, 23, was released by the Kansas City Chiefs back in June following mandatory minicamp.

This signing immediately addresses a position of need as Washington's linebacker room is banged up. Reuben Foster was ruled out of the entire season due to a torn ACL he suffered in May, Josh Harvey-Clemmons is going through concussion protocol while strengthening an ailing knee, and Shaun Dion Hamilton is still questionable with a chest injury. 

In his two seasons at Texas, Johnson tallied 147 tackles, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and two pass breakups in 23 games.

Johnson took to Twitter to celebrate his latest opportunity in the nation's capital: 

Johnson's Twitter profile also features the statement "I Hate QB's & RB's."

It's fair to say the Redskins are always on the lookout for defensive guys with that mentality. 

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Stock Up, Stock Down: Montae Nicholson and Samaje Perine going in opposite directions

Stock Up, Stock Down: Montae Nicholson and Samaje Perine going in opposite directions

The Redskins lost to the Bengals Thursday night at FedEx Field, but in the preseason, final results don't really matter. What matters comes in individual and group performances, particularly among first-team units.

In that vein, the Redskins starting defense looked strong against Cincinnati. Outside of some dumb and wacky penalty calls, the starting defense barely gave up any first downs. A number of players impressed on that group, so let's start with the stocks trending in the right direction. 

Stock Up

  • Montae Nicholson - The 96-yard interception return for a touchdown was an impressive display of playmaking ability and speed, but more than that, it was the culmination of a strong offseason and training camp. For the Redskins to be a Top 10 defense, Nicholson needs to be the hard-hitting stud that Washington fans saw glimpses of as a rookie in 2017. Last year was a lost season for Nicholson, who dealt with injuries, getting benched and legal troubles. 2019 is a new start, and so far, it looks quite good. 
  • Adrian Peterson - Not that a first-ballot Hall of Famer really needs preseason validation, but when Peterson ripped off a 26-yard run in the first quarter against the Bengals it became pretty obvious he's ready to go for 2019. And it's important too as second-year back Derrius Guice still isn't cleared for competition. 
  • Robert Davis - Another week, another long touchdown. If there's a handbook to show how to force your way onto a roster, Davis is reading from it. 
  • Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne - These dudes are beasts. 

Despite the good news, there was bad news too. Here's that list:

Stock Down

  • Samaje Perine - Five carries for one yard against Cincy. You read that right. That comes after a poor showing in pass protection in the preseason opener. Jay Gruden always sings praises of Perine but hasn't after the last two preseason games. Prior to Shaun Wilson's ankle injury, he seemed like a guy that could really push for Perine's roster spot. Could that be Byron Marshall now?
  • Paul Richardson - The speedster wideout missed the Bengals game, and the word from one Redskins coach was "he's hurt." Many players get held out of preseason action with slight injuries, stuff they would play through in the regular season. That's not the deal with Richardson. He needs to get right. 
  • Cole Holcomb - If you can't make the club in the tub, Holcomb needs to get back on the field. While he's not in actual roster danger because of the growing number of injuries at inside linebacker, Holcomb is dealing with an AC joint issue. Linebackers need their shoulders, and Holcomb missed a valuable opportunity against the Bengals with presumed starter Shaun Dion Hamilton already out for that game. 
  • Nate Kaczor - The Redskins new Special Teams coach is off to a rough start. In two preseason games Washington has already given up two punt return touchdowns, and against the Bengals, kicker Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point and a field goal. Special teams are tricky in the preseason. In the regular season with 53-man rosters, starting players land on special teams. In the preseason with 90-man rosters, it's largely a collection of players that won't make the final roster lining up on special teams. Still, ugly start. 

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