Over the next few days, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will take a look at three players—one from each unit—who could enjoy a breakout season in 2016. Up today …
Inside linebacker Will Compton
2015 regular season stats: 96 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception and 1 fumble recovery.
2016 cap number: Exclusive rights free agent
In review: Compton began his third NFL season as the Redskins’ backup. After coming off the bench in New England to record a game-high 10 tackles, though, he was elevated to a full-time starter.
It was quite an accomplishment for an undrafted player whose career began on the practice squad. But it was also just the beginning of a productive second half for Compton, who started the final eight weeks of the regular season and playoff game against the Packers.
Compton earned praise from coaches and teammates for his ability to quickly process information, diagnose offenses, make checks and communicate play calls from the sideline—all critical responsibilities for the ‘Mike’ linebacker.
The Nebraska product also made plays. Lots of them. In fact, he ranked first or second in tackles eight times in the Redskins’ final 10 contests while battling some bumps and bruises. Compton notched a season-high for tackles (12) in Washington's Wild Card loss.
Despite beginning the season as a reserve, Compton went on to record 96 tackles, which was the second highest total on the team to Dashon Goldson’s 110. ProFootballFocus.com also credited Compton with 23 stops (solo tackles that constitute an offensive failure) and 11 missed tackles, which were tied for the third most on the team behind Goldson and Keenan Robinson.
Looking ahead: Compton (6-1, 230-pounds) made an enormous leap in his first season as a starter. In his eyes, though, it’s just the beginning.
“This was my first year and, in my opinion, I’m only scratching the surface,” said Compton, who can play both inside linebacker positions. “I can get a lot better in a lot of areas.”
He added: “I can’t wait to come back next year. It’ll be even better because I’ll get that much better. If anything, I’m hungrier to get into the offseason just because of the opportunity that can take place next year.”
As far as his contractual situation, Compton isn't concerned since an exclusive rights free agent has little leverage.
“I either write my name on the paper or I can’t play next year.” he said with a chuckle. “Maybe they’ll be nice to me. You never know.”
Indeed, you do never know. As solidly as Compton performed, GM Scot McCloughan will be looking to make upgrades all over the place on defense and, it’s possible, if not likely, Compton will face stiff competition from a free agent or draft pick. But given how much he’s already had to overcome, it wouldn’t surprise me if he continued his upward trajectory and makes an even bigger impact in 2016.
“I always going to go about my business with a chip on my shoulder,” Compton said. “That’s how I came into this league. I can’t lose that edge or that mentality because that’s what got me to this point. I’m going to come ready to go next year. I’m going to have high expectations.”
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