Redskins

Quick Links

Redskins 2017 Roster Battle: With addition of Zach Brown, increased competition at linebacker

Redskins 2017 Roster Battle: With addition of Zach Brown, increased competition at linebacker

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end | Nickel cornerback 

Inside linebacker

The contenders: The Redskins signed Zach Brown in free agency to bolster the middle of their defense, and his arrival should do just that. A Pro Bowler last season in Buffalo, Brown made nearly 150 tackles to go with four sacks, an interception and four pass break-ups. Brown didn't sign a one-year, prove-it type deal with the Redskins to sit the bench. He will start, and that means one of Mason Foster or Will Compton will be sent to the bench. Compton re-signed with the team as a restricted free agent, and will be the front runner to start alongside Brown. Why Compton? There are a few reasons, but the biggest one is that Brown has played mostly Will linebacker in his previous stops. That's Foster's position, as Compton mans the Mike linebacker spot. Compton knows the Washington defense, was voted captain in 2016, and is able to get unit into the huddle and make all the calls. Compton and Foster proved a solid duo in the second half of the 2015 season, though 2016 did not produce as much. Compton missed 13 tackles, second most on the team, though he played much of the year with a hurt knee and was forced to miss a game late in the year. Foster played well in 2016, particularly in the season finale against the Giants. He made 17 tackles in that game and was the best Redskins player on the field. Martrell Spaight and Chris Carter will provide depth and play special teams. Su'a Cravens played inside linebacker in 2016, but in 2017, he will play safety, though some play as a dime LB remains would not be a shock. Despite holding 10 picks, the Redskins did not select an inside linebacker during the 2017 Draft, even with Brown, Foster and Compton eligible for free agency in 2018.

And the winner is...

Finlay: Compton has the inside track to start alongside Brown, but Foster will play plenty. Cravens logged nearly 300 snaps as a LB in 2016, and Foster seems likely to gobble those up and more. What will be most interesting to watch is if Brown pushes for the Mike spot in camp. Unlikely, but as he grows as a player he might want to run the defense, especially with another run at free agency in 2018 after he found a down market in 2017. Pro Football Focus ranked Foster as the Redskins best linebacker in 2016 and fourth best defender overall. If he continues to make plays, he could also push Compton at the Mike spot. This battle will likely push into Richmond, but the important thing for fans to remember is that the Redskins play a true 3-4 base defense on only about 30 percent of their snaps. Barring injury, a combination of Compton, Foster and Brown will all play a lot this fall. 

Tandler: I think that the point that JP makes at the end is the most important. All three inside linebackers will play a lot. Don’t forget that Su’a Cravens, who was the nickel linebacker last year, is now a safety. That leaves snaps that will have to be picked up. The issue they have is that while it’s arguable that Compton is the third best player of the three he may be on the field more often than Brown or Foster because of his role as the one who calls the plays. It will be interesting to see if Foster and/or Brown work on calling defenses in training camp. 

I think the coaches like Compton for a lot of reasons but the missed tackles are a big issue. Also, I doubt that all three are around in 2018 so is not only competition for an immediate starting job but for employment next year and beyond. 

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins are underdogs more often than they are favorites in 2017

Quick Links

Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

When the Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the organization hoped their investment in the passer would result in Washington finding its franchise quarterback of the future.

Whether Haskins becomes that franchise quarterback is still up for debate, as the signal-caller had an up-and-down rookie season. But the Ohio State product seemed to improve by the week and ended the season playing his best football, giving fans hope for the future.

Kurt Warner, a Super Bowl-champion quarterback who had to wait several years before getting his first NFL shot, believes Haskins can eventually develop into that franchise QB for the Burgundy and Gold.

The Super Bowl-winning quarterback joined the Redskins Talk podcast on Tuesday, and spoke highly of the 22-year-old's ability.

"The skillset, without question, is there," Warner said. "We saw that in college, we saw that in moments last year."

Warner explained that one of the things he looks for in young passers is their week-to-week improvement. That's something Haskins did very well towards the end of the 2019 season.

"To me, that's what greatness is all about," Warner said. "It's not about coming into the league and being a finished product. It's about working and getting better all the time."

In his final two games, Haskins threw for 394 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions on 72 percent completion rate. He was on his way to the best game of his brief career in Week 16 against the Giants before an ankle injury ended his afternoon in the third quarter.

"What I saw with Dwayne this year, he did improve game by game," Warner said. "As he got more comfortable with the NFL, as he got more comfortable with the system, he played better and better and made them more competitive each and every time out."

The 2020 offseason is crucial for Haskins. It's his first full offseason in the NFL, and seems poised to make a jump in Year 2. 

Haskins dealt with a lot in 2019, rookie or not. Five weeks into the season, his head coach was fired. He wasn't named the starter until Week 9, only due to injury to Case Keenum. Entering his second season, Haskins has a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new position coach.

There's little carryover from a season ago. Very few organizations that constantly change in the NFL are successful. 

"For young quarterbacks or players in general, you want to be able to find something you’re comfortable with and grow in," Warner said. "Hopefully this is the only move they make during Dwayne's career and he can get comfortable in that offense and hopefully one day be playing in the Super Bowl as well."

Warner knows plenty about waiting to get his opportunity; he didn't get his first shot in the NFL until he was 28. But he was put into an offense nicknamed 'The Greatest Show on Turf" that featured plenty of weapons -- Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt -- which allowed the inexperienced Warner to thrive.

In his first season as the Rams starter, Warner threw for a league-high 41 touchdown passes on an 8.2 percent touchdown rate, with just 13 interceptions. His 109.2 quarterback rating was the NFL's best that season. The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating Tennessee.

"I think the other component is finding the right situation, the right system for you," Warner said. When I got back into the NFL with the Rams, I was 28 years old when I got my first start. I was able to have a lot of success early because I found myself in the right system. The offense did what I did well. It played to my strengths."

Washington doesn't have the weapons that Warner's Rams did, but the Redskins have several young assets -- Terry McLaurin, Derrius Guice and Steven Sims -- that have shown promise. Getting Haskins in the right system, one that caters to his strengths, will be crucial in the development of the young passer.

"I believe that is key for players, especially at the quarterback position. You've got to find a system," Warner said. "In this case in Washington, they need to build a system around what Dwayne Haskins does well. That's how you thrive. That's how you get to and win Super Bowls."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

Quick Links

'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller spent a combined six seasons with the Redskins, yet neither corner won a playoff game during their tenures there.

Therefore, you can excuse them if they're having a hard time expressing what it's like now being in the Super Bowl together with the Chiefs.

"It's still unbelievable," Breeland told JP Finlay at SB LIV's Media Night on Monday. "I can't even find the words to fathom how I feel about this opportunity."

In fact, the last time Breeland and Finlay chatted, the former was literally asking the latter where to purchase tickets for the NFL's biggest spectacle. He shouldn't have much trouble getting inside of the stadium this time around, though.

"I ended up not even going to that game," he said. "I told myself I wasn't going to the Super Bowl until I got a chance to play in it. Couple of years later, it came true."

Breeland's path to the Chiefs was quite bumpy. After playing for the Redskins for four years and departing after 2017, he inked a well-earned three-year deal with the Panthers. However, he cut his foot during a trip to the Dominican Republic, causing him to fail his physical with Carolina and voiding his contract.

Breeland eventually joined the Packers halfway through 2018, and then he signed with the Chiefs this past offseason. His compensation with Kansas City doesn't come close to what he could've had with Carolina, but a Super Bowl appearance plus his two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2019 could help him cash in when free agency begins in a few months.

Fuller, meanwhile, took a much more direct route to the now-AFC champions. The Burgundy and Gold's 2016 draft selection was a part of the shocking Alex Smith trade and he's now concluding his second campaign with his second pro team.

The fact that the pair is reunited again and one win away from reaching the top of the sport isn't lost on Fuller, especially after some of the struggles they experienced with the Redskins. 

"It's been fun," he said. "After we won the AFC Championship game, me and [Breeland] were just kind of sitting on the bench looking at each other, knowing how far we came."

The key to K.C.'s rise, according to Breeland, has been their unity. The almost 28-year-old didn't directly call out Washington for lacking a similar closeness, but his comments don't exactly require much parsing to realize the comparison he's making.

So, while he and Fuller are obviously looking ahead to the 49ers, the following comment from Breeland's brief reflection on his past is telling about what the Redskins need to fix on their end.

"Throughout crunch time, everybody pulls together," Breeland explained. "I've been on different sidelines when things go bad, a lot of people start bickering and pull apart from each other. Those were the times that [this team] got closer and pulled together the most."

MORE REDSKINS NEWS