Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.
Up today …
Inside linebackers to-do list
Tandler: The Redskins have seven inside linebackers with a legitimate shot at making the roster and they will start the process of sorting them out during OTAs. Last year the Redskins kept four ILBs when they cut to 53 although they did carry five at times during the season due to injuries.
There will be two competitions going on here. Perry Riley, Will Compton, and Mason Foster will be competing for the two starting jobs. Riley was thought to be a possible salary cap casualty but he isn’t going anywhere, at least not until this competition is sorted out.
In the survivor category there will be veterans Terence Garvin and Adam Hayward, rookie Steven Daniels, and first-year player Martrell Spaight. That means that four players will be vying for probably one and maybe two roster spots. The first stage of that competition will play out during OTAs. They will be fighting for the right to take backup reps during training camp.
Special teams will have a lot to do with who wins the remaining spot or spots. It’s hard to determine much about special teams ability during non-contact OTAs, but it would behoove both Spaight and Daniels to study their assignments and look like experienced veterans. Garvin and Hayward already are there and the two young players have to catch up fast.
El-Bashir: There are two starting spots on the inside and three players who saw significant playing time there in 2015. So, obviously, something’s got to give.
Compton was one of last year’s inspirational stories, rising from the ranks of the undrafted to full-time NFL starter, a gig he earned after the bye. Riley struggled through an uneven, injury-plagued season and didn’t see the field over the final six weeks due to a broken foot. Foster, meantime, was a revelation down the stretch, starting the final five regular season games, then producing a standout performance in the Wild Card loss to the Packers. What's the pecking order in 2016? We’ll get our first clues Wednesday, when the Redskins open practice to the media for the first time this spring.
As for the battle at the backup spots, I can’t disagree with anything Tandler said. It will, indeed, come down to special teams production.
Last year, the Redskins kept four inside linebackers at the final cutdown, which doesn’t leave much wiggle room if Compton, Foster and Riley occupy three of the spots. Depending on what happens there, that will leave veterans Terence Garvin and Adam Hayward battling youngsters Martrell Spaight, Steven Daniels and Carlos Fields for one, or perhaps two, spots.
Hayward, who turns 32 in June, is attempting to bounce back from a pair of significant leg injuries, while Garvin, 25, has been one of the league’s better special teamers each of the past two seasons. In fact, Garvin ranked among the league leaders in special teams tackles (15) as a member of the Steelers in 2014. It's too early to know how things will shake out. But we can be sure of this much: opening arguments begin next week.