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Redskins Depth Chart: Reuben Foster the biggest of many questions at linebacker

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Redskins Depth Chart: Reuben Foster the biggest of many questions at linebacker

Since Mike Shanahan first coached the Redskins in 2010, the team has employed a 3-4 base defense. In that scheme, inside linebackers play a large and important role.

REDSKINS DEPTH CHART REVIEW: QB | TE WR | RB | OL | DL | OLB

For the 2019 Washington defense, linebacker might be the most interesting position on the team. Why?

It all starts with Reuben Foster. 

An elite talent in college at the University of Alabama, Foster was a first-round pick in 2017. He had a well documented two year run in San Francisco, marred by two domestic violence arrests and his release from the Niners last fall. Beyond the domestic violence allegations, which were both dropped in court, Foster also had a gun charge and a marijuana charge in the time since he was drafted. 

All that said, if Foster can keep his act together, he could present a significant influx of talent to the Redskins linebacker group. It's a huge if though, because even in his rookie season in San Francisco, Foster did not consistently show the same talent as he did at 'Bama. 

Here's what could help Foster: Playing alongside his college teammate in Shaun Dion Hamilton. Those two paired well in college, and while the NFL is a different beast entirely, Hamilton is the heady type that can account for some of Foster's freelancing at linebacker. 

While the two Crimson Tide alums get the most attention, Mason Foster is easily the most accomplished linebacker on the Redskins roster. He's made more than 120 tackles in two of the last three seasons, with only an injury riddled 2017 withstanding. An eight-year NFL veteran, Foster will be the only linebacker on the roster with more than three years experience, which has real value. He had an ugly incident last year with fans on social media, but inside the Ashburn walls, Foster is well respected for his work ethic by both coaches and teammates. That's important for young players to see. 

After the two Fosters and Hamilton, the Redskins also have Josh Harvey-Clemons and rookie Cole Holcomb.

Harvey-Clemons has proved a useful player in the Redskins nickel package. He has some coverage ability, and began to replace Zach Brown in that role early last season. The Redskins will miss Brown's speed this fall after releasing him before free agency opened, particularly if he makes an immediate impact with the Eagles. 

Holcomb, however, fits a similar mold as Brown.

Both linebackers went to North Carolina, and both have elite speed for the position. Brown was very good in Washington in 2017, but not so much in 2018, which led to his release. The rookie Holcomb will not touch Brown's 2017 level this year, but might be able to provide some speed to the 'Skins linebacker group and on special teams, not to mention a cheap price tag. 

The Redskins linebacker group offers arguably the greatest variance in performance of any projected unit. And it hinges on Foster. 

If Reuben Foster can live up to his Alabama potential, he can be great. If he gets in more trouble, he's probably out of the NFL. The margin is razor thin. 

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“ I want to freakin’ play," Trey Quinn on his minor, but frustrating thumb injury

“ I want to freakin’ play," Trey Quinn on his minor, but frustrating thumb injury

Don't try and convince Trey Quinn that it's not a big deal to miss Thursday's preseason game against the Falcons, which is news Jay Gruden confirmed on Tuesday. To Quinn, it matters a lot, even if the contest itself really doesn't at all.

"I want to freakin' play," the second-year pro told reporters in the Redskins locker room. "I know they don't count, but to be honest with you, I want to get out there and compete."

Quinn is dealing with a thumb injury he suffered in warmups for Washington's exhibition opener in Cleveland on Aug. 8. According to the receiver, things got a "little chaotic" before kickoff and someone ran into him while he was catching a punt.

He explained that his hand is "progressing well" and "should be pretty healthy soon." But for a guy who landed on the injured reserve list twice as a rookie, dealing with another health issue just a handful of days away from the 2019 opener is far from ideal.

"I like reps. I freakin' love football. I don't need them, but I want them," he said. "I get aggravated not being out there. I get pretty pissed off. I'm one of the guys that likes to be out there in practice, get the reps and then go in there prepared for the game."

Quinn is one of the funnier and more laid back players on the Burgundy and Gold, and at times on Tuesday, that side came through. There were other moments, though, where he quickly shifted into a very serious tone, like when he was asked if he'd be suiting up if Thursday was a regular-season matchup. 

"Yeah, I'm out there," Quinn said. "Don't ask that question."

His sense of urgency when it comes to returning to action was evident throughout his talk with the media, and for good reason.

At training camp earlier this summer, Gruden identified Quinn as a guy who had all but locked up the slot position, despite the fact that Quinn only has nine career catches to his name. The last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft is a favorite among coaches, but he's well aware that a few more health concerns and missed games could rapidly change that.

Now, this particular thumb problem doesn't appear to be a huge deal on its own. Combine it with the IR stints in 2018, however, plus the daily on-field chemistry building Quinn's missing with the quarterbacks, and you begin to understand why he's so anxious for his finger to fully heal.

Fortunately for him, he's got another 19 days before the Redskins travel to Philadelphia to open up the year. And when that date finally rolls around, Quinn hopes to have one desire on his mind.

"Come the Eagles Week 1, I want to be ready to win."

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Sorry Redskins fans, it's now officially time to freak out about Trent Williams

Sorry Redskins fans, it's now officially time to freak out about Trent Williams

In some situations, no news is good news. In the Redskins situation with Trent Williams, that's definitely not the case. 

On Monday, Washington coach Jay Gruden was asked if there was any update on the holdout that has kept the seven-time Pro Bowler away from the team for most of 2019, including all of training camp and the team's first two preseason games. 

"There are no updates whatsoever," Gruden said of Williams' holdout. 

That's big trouble. 

For the first few months, it seemed like Williams would come back. He was proving a point, showing the organization just how upset he was about a missed diagnosis on his scalp. But then Williams never showed up for training camp, and multiple sources explained Trent was serious about not coming back.

So why is now the time to really be worried? The Redskins will play their third preseason game on Thursday night in Atlanta. That's the important one, the preseason game where coaches really try to play their guys and simulate live action. 

Trent won't be there. 

"We’re preparing with the guys we have right now. That’s all we can do," Gruden said. 

At left tackle, that means second-year pro Geron Christian or newly signed veteran Donald Penn. Neither player comes close to Williams, but barely any NFL tackles do. Williams is elite, his replacements aren't, and that will become more clear than ever in Atlanta. 

But beyond Thursday's preseason game, Gruden's body language on Monday revealed a reluctant acceptance that Williams is nowhere close to suiting up in Burgundy and Gold. Early in training camp, Gruden sounded upbeat and optimistic that Williams would return. On Monday, the coach seemed defeated when talking about his left tackle (watch the video above).

"It is what it is right now," Gruden said. "He’s not here so we just have to talk about the people that we have."

In May and June, Trent's holdout seemed abstract. It was happening, but didn't really matter. Real football was so far away. 

In July, it became real. Williams never took the field in Richmond, and that was a real sign about the severity of the situation. 

On August 20th, with the dress rehearsal third preseason game two days away, Williams is not part of the game plan. He's not even a real thought for the offensive staff.

At the team's practice facility in Ashburn, Williams is a ghost. Unopened boxes sit stacked in front of his locker. There's no music being played, no jerseys being washed, and no big smile creeping out from his prime spot in the corner. 

Real football starts in less than a month, and for the Redskins, Trent Williams is not part of the plan. That's a huge problem, and now more than ever, it doesn't seem like it's changing. 

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