Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart now that the team’s offseason program has concluded. Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Sept. 5.
So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …
Position: Inside linebacker.
On the roster: Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley, Will Compton, Adam Hayward, Martrell Spaight, Ja’Gared Davis, Terrance Plummer, Dyshawn Davis and Alonzo Highsmith.
Likely to make the 53: Robinson, Riley, Compton, Hayward and Spaight.
Comment: Unlike outside linebacker and safety, which we discussed here and here, there probably won’t be much training camp drama at inside linebacker. Robinson and Riley are the returning starters and Compton, once again, figures to be the primary backup at both spots. Can Compton press for more playing time? Perhaps. That could be something to keep an eye on as camp heats up in Richmond.
Another area to monitor later this summer is Robinson’s development as he enters his second season as a starter. Robinson, who turns 26 next month, led the team in tackles in 2014, despite missing three games due to a knee injury. He also made strides as the play-caller on defense. But there’s more—a lot more—that he's capable of doing, at least in the eyes of linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.
“He has the big picture stuff down,” Olivadotti said of Robinson. “And he works he works his butt off at that. Really, it’s the details of footwork and angles to the ball and what shoulder am I tackling with? Those are the little things that he can exponentially get better at, and it will raise his level of play a lot.”
Battling for a job: Spaight, J. Davis, Plummer, D. Davis and Highsmith.
Comment: If the Redskins keep five inside linebackers as they did in 2014, that likely means there will be one spot available.
Last season, Robinson and Riley rarely came off the field when healthy, while Compton started five games as an injury replacement. Hayward, meantime, saw just 14 snaps on defense while serving as special teams captain.
Spaight would seem to have the inside track, considering he was drafted in the fifth round by new GM Scot McCloughan. Spaight was also praised by Coach Jay Gruden for his tenacity on special teams during OTAs and minicamp.
It should also be noted that Ja’Gared Davis was listed as Riley’s backup late last season, though he didn't see the field on defense. He was, however, among the few Redskins who earned a positive rating on special teams from ProFootballFocus.com, which credited him with five tackles.
As for the others, they’ll need a strong showing once the pads are put on in order to join the conversation.