Reuben Foster cried as he got carted off the field at Redskins Park on Monday. The injury — which is reportedly a torn ACL — was massive on a number of different levels, but personally, for Foster, it had to be devastating.
A first-round pick in 2017, Foster has had a controversial and tumultuous NFL career. He's been suspended multiple times, dealt with multiple domestic violence arrests (though he's been cleared for both) and has a substance abuse violation. Foster's dealt with police and NFL discipline more in two seasons than most players do in a career, and despite all that, there was great hope for his on-field ability this fall.
Now for the Redskins, Foster won't be a part of the plans for the 2019 season. So who is?
Expect Mason Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton to be the starting linebackers for this team. Those two took over the top two spots late in the 2018 season as Zach Brown got benched. With Brown now in Philadelphia, there is hardly any question Foster and Hamilton will get the majority of the work.
Expect Josh Harvey-Clemons to maintain his role in the nickel package, and all of a sudden, fifth-round rookie Cole Holcomb has a chance not only to make the team but contribute right away. When the 'Skins took Holcomb, the word was he could use his speed on special teams early and learn to be an NFL linebacker. Well, that learning curve just hit the gas pedal.
The Redskins could look to bring in a veteran free agent linebacker for depth, as former Washington LB Will Compton remains a free agent. There are other names out there, though not that exciting — guys like Josh Bynes, Hayes Pullard or Manti Te'o.
For fans that wondered why the team held on to Mason Foster this offseason, this is why. Nobody could expect a major injury to Reuben Foster in a non-contact drill in OTAs, but there were questions, both on-field and off-field. In his career, Reuben Foster played just 16 of 32 possible games. Mason Foster has played two full 16-game seasons in the last three years.
The hard reality is that losing Reuben Foster is a big blow for the potential of the Redskins defense, but if it had to happen, May was the best possible time. Washington still has almost four months to build their defense and figure out their linebacker situation.
The potential, though, takes a big hit. Foster was a first-round pick, with some elite talent. He was a major thumper that covered ground fast-moving downhill.
After the draft, some said the Redskins' defense had top-five potential. Losing Reuben Foster lowers that ceiling. It just does. He was the only player at the linebacker position with his level of skill, and that skill won't be easily replaced.
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