Sunday's news that Reuben Foster is off the PUP list and ready to start working on the field with the Washington Football Team will enliven many fans, and rightly so. The former first-round pick has been oft-discussed since the franchise claimed him in November 2018 and now he can try to get his career back on track.
That said, it feels like the perfect time to have a conversation about expectations when it comes to what Foster will add to the defense, at least right away. So let's have that talk.
Should he be able to get through camp and find himself in the lineup for Week 1 — that's not exactly a given, by the way, considering he just regained feeling in his toes in January following that awful 2019 injury in OTAs and he missed six games as a rookie with the Niners for health issues and he's had his fair share of other troubles — Foster will no doubt help.
Washington's linebacker group, with Thomas Davis, Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb slated to lead the way, appears solid yet also a bit lacking in game-changing ability and dynamic traits. Foster was known for those qualities at Alabama and had at least hinted at them in San Fran, which means he should easily find a spot in Ron Rivera, Jack Del Rio and position coach Steve Russ' rotation.
But should that be the limit to what people are looking for out of the 26-year-old in 2020, as opposed to the missing piece label that some are putting on him?
At the risk of having this story referenced in October when Foster is balling out, it's not hard to find reasons to still be wary of what he'll end up providing.
As already referenced, Foster is coming off a traumatic torn ACL and LCL that took him nearly 15 months to recover from. How will that knee handle camp? How will that knee handle games? And, more importantly, how will Foster handle that knee? Will he still be the contact-seeking missile he was in college and early on as a pro?
It's not like he's trying to come back from a simple sprain. He may have a lot of work to do before he is fully confident in his body again.
Going off of that point, Foster's last NFL appearance was Oct. 28, 2018. This is someone who didn't play at all last season and who missed the back half of the previous one, too. That's an enormous layoff. How quickly will he be able to reacquaint himself to life on Sundays?
Beyond the injury and time off concerns, Foster's past contributions can be debated as well. Yes, as a rookie, Pro Football Focus rated him as the sport's 10th-best linebacker, but he's still quite young in terms of his development. In fact, an ex-teammate once flat-out called him "undisciplined" and criticized him for having "no technique to his game."
With Foster sidelined for this long and the team's defense struggling in his absence, a chunk of fans have allowed themselves to bill him as an All-Pro just waiting to happen. He certainly has the talent to one day deliver on that lofty idea, though he also has more growing to do to get there. Maybe even a lot more growing. Don't overlook that.
The amount of drama that's surrounded Washington this offseason has been ridiculous, even by the ridiculous standards that the organization has set. Therefore, if supporters want to celebrate that Foster is activated and heading toward his long-awaited debut, go for it.
Don't let the celebrations get too out of hand, however. There is a large gap between Foster leaving PUP and Foster really, positively impacting the defense. He took the first step across that gap on Sunday, but there are many more to go.
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