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Redskins Position Outlook: Linebackers make plenty of tackles, but few big plays

Redskins Position Outlook: Linebackers make plenty of tackles, but few big plays

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.

Inside Linebackers

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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The Redskins intend to be ready for 'every scenario' when the 2020 NFL Draft begins

The Redskins intend to be ready for 'every scenario' when the 2020 NFL Draft begins

Kyle Smith began his media session at the Combine Tuesday by thanking Dan Snyder and Ron Rivera for giving him his new role of Vice President of Player Personnel, others in the front office for helping him in the past and even the hosts of the NFL's offseason staple for putting on such a well-run event.

It was an impressive way for the young executive to open up his presser and hinted at how detail-oriented he is. So, it should be no surprise that Smith intends to be beyond prepared for whatever the 2020 NFL Draft may throw at him and his franchise.

"Trade scenarios, we'll talk through all that stuff. That's part of those three, four, five days leading up to the draft. We'll go through every scenario," he told reporters in Indianapolis. "We will go through every scenario of how far back would we go if that scenario came or what if this team called and what do they have available? We'll go through all those scenarios so that draft night, when those opportunities come, we'll be ready to roll."

Every Redskins fan on the planet — as well as Redskins fans on other planets, if they exist (which is something this story won't examine further, sorry) — know that the key decision facing Washington these days is what to do with the No. 2 pick. And while Smith was open with his praise of Chase Young's potential, he made sure to mention that this year's class features plenty of other strong prospects.

As for the kinds of players Smith and Rivera will target, the two leaders are already unified in what they value, according to Smith.

"Sitting down from the very first conversation we had at Mr. Snyder's house, we talked through our process and what we've been doing with the draft and the type of players we've been looking for," he said. "And he talked about his process and... we kind of meshed it together. And we'll move forward together."

In explaining how the Redskins will assemble their draft board — by the way, hardcore fans will love his full breakdown on this episode of the Redskins Talk podcast — Smith explained that he's going to run those meetings. Eventually, Smith and the personnel folks will huddle with the coaches and pass over names of soon-to-be-pros the coaches need to review.

Then, by April, the two staffs will meet once more and finalize everything. Only then will the answer to Washington's major offseason question finally reveal itself, and Young or a couple of other of top selections will join the Redskins.

Regardless of that answer, Smith expects the organization to reach it in a shared fashion.

"It's a collaborative deal," he said. "We believe in our process. We're going to talk through everything... Once the coaches come in in April, we will sit in there and literally go through each thing, each scenario and set it together so everybody's on the same page and everybody's working together."


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Redskins VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith on Dwayne Haskins: 'He needs his time'

Redskins VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith on Dwayne Haskins: 'He needs his time'

Dwayne Haskins knows that the Redskins starting quarterback job will not be given to him; he must earn it. Ron Rivera has made that clear multiple times since taking over as the team's head coach.

Rivera has mentioned he's excited about Haskins' future, too, but the new head coach could also be looking for the second-year quarterback to use this offseason to go above and beyond and truly take command and ownership of the job. Doug Williams, the Redskins senior vice president of development, said as much earlier this week.

Redskins vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith believes thus far, Haskins has done exactly that.

"He's ready to do everything he possibly can," Smith said to local media on Tuesday in Indianapolis, speaking for the first time since being promoted to his current role in January. "The other day he told me he's bringing the guys down to Florida to throw with them and do the things he can do. He's doing all the extra stuff that we expect of him and he's got a bright future."

Working out with teammates at an off-site location during the offseason is not uncommon for NFL players. The league has placed multiple rules and regulations on NFL teams that restrict the amount of hands-on access coaches can have with players. It's up to the players to go about it themselves and coordinate times to work out together.

In addition to reaching out to his wideouts to schedule offseason work, Haskins has remained in the building since the season ended and continued to work on his craft. That's something Smith has noticed.

"He's smiling walking around the building," Smith said. "He's excited, he's energized."

The 22-year-old is still raw when it comes to experience; he only started one year at Ohio State and seven games a year ago as a rookie. Smith recognizes this and believes time will serve Haskins extremely well.

"He also needs his time. He's a young kid, man," Smith said. "He's got the right stuff. He's a good kid, he works hard. We're all excited about Dwayne."

Haskins had more than his fair share of growing pains as a rookie, but the Ohio State product really started to catch his stride towards the end of the season. Through the final six quarters of Haskins' season, he threw for 394 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions.

Haskins' progression towards the end of the 2019 campaign has excited many in the building, Smith included.

"I'm really excited about Dwayne," Smith said. "Obviously, as everybody has seen, he kind of ascended as the season went on. He played in [seven] games, he kept improving. I just had a conversation with him the other day. I'm excited, man."

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