Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2017. We’re starting things off with a look at the running backs.
Starters: Will Compton, Mason Foster
Backups: Terence Garvin, Martrell Spaight, Su'a Cravens
Free Agents: Terence Garvin, Will Compton (restricted)
Injured/Reserve: Steven Daniels
Rewind: Foster ranked first and Compton second in total tackles for the Redskins defense in 2016. Foster played in all 16 games for the Washington defense, and Compton played in 15 games. They form a duo of inteligent and capable players, perhaps hindered by the troubles of the defensive line in front of them.
Compton was hindered late in the year with a number of injuries, but Foster played well to close the season, particularly against the Giants in Week 17 when he registered 17 tackles. Coaches respect both linebackers, and players do too, as Compton was voted defensive captain.
There is plenty to like from Compton and Foster, but in 2016, neither player delivered many big, high impact plays. While inside linebacker is not a position of need for the 'Skins, it would not be a shock if Scot McCloughan again adds to the group via the draft. In the previous two drafts, the Redskins grabbed a middle linebacker, Martrell Spaight in 2015 and Steven Daniels in 2016.
Spaight works hard, but wasn't overly impressive in a spot start for Compton. Daniels didn't play last season, hitting the IR in training camp. Su'a Cravens also played a significant amount at linebacker in 2016, flashing big play ability, but the plan for the second-year man is to move to safety. Terence Garvin was mostly a special teams player, though most of his fellow linebackers appreciated his comedic ways in the locker room.
Fast forward: It seems likely Compton returns to the Redskins in 2017 as he's a restricted free agent, but there have been whispers that other teams might consider going after the linebacker and compensating Washington. Assuming Compton returns, he and Foster would again be the interior 'backers in 2017 unless a high round draft pick emerges.
An improved line will help the entire defense, but particularly Compton. In 29 starts the last two seasons, Compton has produced two interceptions and three forced fumbles. Watch Compton play, and it's clear he often knows the direction of the play coming his way. Better play in front of him might lead to more turnover opportunities.
Cravens' move to safety will mean more Foster in nickel coverage. It will also be interesting to see what changes Greg Manusky makes as the new Redskins defensive coordinator. Manusky has repeatedly said he likes the players on his defense, just wants them playing with more unity and agression.
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