The injury bug has reared its ugly head once again in Washington; This time ILB Reuben Foster went down. He was officially moved to IR with a torn ACL after stepping on a teammate’s foot during non-contact drills.
It's been reported that Foster could potentially have damage to an artery in his leg as well as additional ligament damage. Make no mistake, this is a horrific injury that could possibly threaten his future in the NFL. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a similar injury and missed two full seasons before making his return to football, but has never looked the same.
Washington took a significant public relations hit when they signed Foster during his legal battle with his ex-girlfriend. As Skins fans know, those charges were dropped, but the dark cloud has seemingly followed the Alabama linebacker.
Although many in the organization had high hopes for Foster, the Next Man Up mantra will once again be the theme of the offseason. The Redskins did go after free agent and current New York Jets ILB CJ Mosley, but reportedly weren't in the same ballpark as New York with Mosley signing a 5 year $85 million contract with $51 million guaranteed.
After failing to land an inside linebacker in free agency, the Redskins waited until Round 5 of the 2019 Draft to select inside linebacker Cole Holcomb. Quarterback still remains the position battle to watch in Washington, but inside linebacker has now become an area of concern.
Who Steps Up?
The Redskins current group at inside linebacker consists of Shawn Dion Hamilton, Mason Foster, Josh Harvey-Clemons, recently signed Jon Bostic and the previously mentioned rookie Cole Holcomb. Bostic will get a shot, but making the 53 man roster will be a challenge for the journeyman linebacker. Hamilton seems to have one of the ILB spots locked down, but after that it's anybody's guess who lines up next to him.
The other Foster seems like the logical choice, but his limitations are undeniable. Continuing the youth movement on defense and turning to Holcomb seems like the best option. Although Holcomb's ceiling is viewed as a special teams ace by some in the media, the 6'1" 231 lb linebacker provides sideline to sideline ability with elite speed. The 5th rounder is raw, but it's time for coaches to harness his speed & ability and start the process of molding him into a potential starter.
Free Agent Options
Bostic shouldn't be the last Redskins acquisition at ILB, but at this point in the process the pickings could be slim for available free-agent inside linebackers. One familiar name is former Washington ILB Will Compton. At age 30, bringing Compton back would go against the youth movement on defense, but would bring valuable leadership and work ethic.
Although an option, Compton can't be expected to make a meaningful contribution and seems to have reached his ceiling as a strong leader and special teams’ contributor. They also could bring back Zach Vigil (28 yrs old), but similar to Compton, he's more of a depth option.
Losing Foster for the year and possibly beyond is a big blow to the defense. However, the Redskins are fielding a strong defense, which has the potential be a Top 10 unit if they avoid further injuries to key players. In saying that, exploring other options in the UDFA market is an option, but Cole Holcomb seems like the best choice with all of training camp for coaches to get him ready.
By Adam Aniba