With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.
Starters: Zach Brown, Mason Foster
Other roster locks: Will Compton, Martrell Spaight
On the bubble: Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Nico Marley
How the inside linebackers compare:
To the 2016 Redskins: Brown makes the difference here. He brings an element of speed, athleticism, and playmaking ability that the unit lacked last year. Foster and Compton had their moments but Brown improves the group by leaps and bounds. Substantially better
To the rest of the NFL: This is an area where comparisons are difficult because about half the teams in the league run the 4-3 and have one inside linebacker on the field. The Redskins aren’t up there with the Steelers, who have Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons on the inside, or the Cardinals, with Karlos Dansby and first-round pick Hasson Reddick. But Brown adds enough quality to make the Redskins’ unit at least average and possibly better. Middle of the pack, up arrow
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Biggest upside: Foster is 28 and he played some of his best football last year, particularly in the late going. If he continues to improve, he will be right up there with Brown as one on the better players at his position in the league.
Most to prove: The Redskins didn’t necessarily sign Brown to move Compton to the bench but that appears to be what will happen. While the coaches always speak highly of him, the organization gave him the low restricted free agent tender this past offseason, the bare minimum they had to do to retain his rights. If he doesn’t start he won’t necessarily get glued to the bench; Compton should get some situational snaps and injuries are always a possibility. Whatever happens, he needs to take advantage of his opportunities whenever he is on the field if he is going to become a free agent who can market himself as a potential starter next year.
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Rookie watch: Harvey-Clemons, a seventh-round pick who played safety at Louisville, may not make the roster this year but if the Redskins can get him through waivers and onto the practice squad, he could be a contributor starting in 2018. At 6-4, 226 he looks like a fish out of water. But if he adds some weight to his frame, he has the instincts and toughness to succeed as a nickel linebacker.
Bottom line: This could be the best inside linebacker group the Redskins have had since earlier this decade when London Fletcher was making Pro Bowls and Perry Riley was playing well. They haven’t had much impact out of the position lately and it looks like Brown and possibly Foster could change that.
Jay Gruden on the inside linebacker group:
I feel really good about our linebacking corps. I think Spaight comes in there and does a good job. Obviously Will Compton is a great leader, a great communicator, does some great things. Josh Harvey-Clemons has done some good things at middle linebacker. Honestly, any pairing there I feel pretty good about right now. Marley obviously has been running around like a bat out of hell, so those guys are playing well. Kirk Olivadotti has done a nice job coaching them up and I like the combinations we’re going with right now.
2017 Redskins position outlook series: Wide receiver | Defensive line | Offensive line |
Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.