Going into the offseason, inside linebacker was a huge issue for the Redskins. The unit lacked size, speed and athleticism. Many thought the team would look to the NFL draft to secure an immediate upgrade on the inside. And then, almost out of left field, the team brought in Zach Brown, who surprisingly had generated little free agent interest on the open market, and signed him to a one-year deal. The unit immediately improved!
The draft came and went without the Skins selecting an inside backer, and now we are faced with competition at MIKE linebacker heading into training camp.
Incumbent starter Will Compton has taken first team reps at MIKE during the first week of OTA in Greg Manusky's new defense, but this could be because he is somewhat familiar with the terminology to date. Aside from his ability to get guys into the right positions on defense, Compton struggles as a sideline-to-sideline run stopper, and is a liability in coverage.
In his second season in Washington, Mason Foster started 13 games, recording 88 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack and 3 passes defended. At 6'1" 250 pounds, he is built to take on the rigors of life between the tackles in the NFL.. He's a classic "mucker", being able to sift through the debris, find the ball carrier, and put him on his back. He's a thumper, who will come up hard and fill a gap with urgency, and he's certainly not afraid to take on a blocker at the point of attack.
Foster does lack some skills in pass coverage, as he tends to be a bit slow getting into his drops and recognizing routes in front of him, but with Zach Brown now on the field, he could be subbed out on passing downs for a dime linebacker to play opposite Brown. Mason does have experience calling the defense, as he was called upon to do so last year when Compton missed a few games with injury.
Overall, I believe Foster is a better fit as a run defender in the Redskins 3-4 defense, and can become the play caller for Greg Manusky this fall if he can beat out Will Compton for the starting position.
So, will Mason Foster take over as the Redskins new starting MIKE linebacker alongside Zach Brown?