The life of a 3-4 MIKE linebacker in the NFL can be rigorous. You have to be able to play through traffic, fill your gaps against the run, stuff running backs who are often as big as you are, play sideline to sideline, and cover elusive tight ends in the passing game - all while calling a defense and getting your teammates into the right place pre-snap.
Will Compton may not be the most athletic, hardest hitting, loose-hipped, sideline to sideline, linebacker, but man can he call one hell of a defense....
And that is where it ends.
As important a job as calling a defense is, there are far more traits needed by an inside linebacker than just field-smarts. Compton exhibits very few. He is bad at taking on blockers at the point of attack, and fighting them off to make a play. Often, he chooses to run around them, virtually taking himself out of the play and making the lineman's job that much easier. When he does get to his assignment, he doesn't bring his hips with him, instead often choosing to go low and wrap. This is an issue because he immediately gives up leverage, and with that comes extra yards gained by opposing running backs.
He also tends to be a bit slow reacting to a play. Part of this may be because he's still working on getting people set when the ball is snapped (I saw this way too many times last season), and although he is usually keyed in on his reads, that half second late is often what results in a big play for opposing offenses. Against the pass, Will seems to know where he needs to be, but again, is often a second late getting into his zone and rarely does he make a play on the ball even if he gets there on time.
The Redskins have limited options at Inside linebacker behind Compton. It is expected that newly signed Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Brown will start as the JACK linebacker, as he's really not comfortable calling defenses. Brown's strengths are his aggressiveness and sideline to sideline speed. He also excels in coverage, showing the ability to run with tight ends and sink into high-hole coverage with ease. Mason Foster can play either MIKE or JACK, and may be a better fit athletically, but new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky may feel more confident with Compton calling his defense, relegating Foster to a reserve roll. The other linebackers on the roster with a shot to make the team are Chris Carter, Martrell Spaight, rookie Josh Harvey-Clemons and Zach Vigil.
There is some chatter amongst the fanbase that rookie second round pick Ryan Anderson could possibly make the switch to Inside linebacker. This is mostly sparked by comments from his head coach Nick Saban saying he thinks Anderson could make that move. In the NFL, thinking one can, and that player actually doing it are two different things. I feel Anderson is way to stiff-hipped and slow to play inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. His best position is left outside linebacker in a 3-4, or SAM in a 4-3.
That leads us to the question - will Will Compton be our starting MIKE linebacker this season?