Fans continue to bicker as training camp progresses about who should start at inside linebacker for the Redskins in 2017. The discussion centers around three players - Will Compton, Mason Foster and Zach Brown.
Most will agree that Compton, the obvious "coaches pet", is the least athletic and talented of the trio, but due to his ability to call the defense, may be given the starting nod over more talented players.
The problem here is not the players on the roster who are fighting to make contributions to this team. The problem is the Redskins front office and coaches who have grossly neglected the position for over a decade. Yes, you heard me right...a decade!
The last time the Redskins took an inside linebacker in the first three rounds was 2006, when the team selected Rocky McIntosh in the second round. Since then, the Redskins have not spent higher than a fourth round selection on an inside linebacker; which they did twice - 2010 (Perry Riley), 2012 (Keenan Robinson). Both of these players are no longer with the team.
In a completely opposite strategy, the Redskins have drafted an outside linebacker/defensive end in the first two rounds five times since 2009, with 2014, 2015 and 2017 all seeing the same position drafted in the second round (Murphy, Smith and Anderson respectively).
Does this positional neglect look familiar?
Before the selection of Jonathan Allen at pick 17 overall in this year's draft, the Redskins had not selected a defensive tackle in the first four rounds since 2011 (Jarvis Jenkins).
A quick look at the Redskins recent defensive struggles will point to an inability to stop the run. In 2015 and 2016 the Redskins ranked 30th and 25th respectively in the NFL in yards allowed per rushing attempt. Their average rank over the last five seasons lands them in the bottom half of the league (18th).
If the Redskins want to improve on defense, it needs to start in the middle of the field. Selecting Allen was a great start, but now those guys who play behind him need to be given some attention. Hopefully the staff will realize this, and finally put some resources towards the position in hopes of bringing the defense back to respectability.
As for this season, the hope is that newcomer Zach Brown can repeat his performance last season in Buffalo, and play at a Pro Bowl level for the Redskins. Even then, he is only on a one-year deal, so keeping him in the fold could be challenging. Compton and Foster are who they are, so either one stepping up, and playing above replacement level, would be welcomed. As it is, they are both free agents at the end of the season, and neither should be part of the team's long-term plans. There is really not a true young Inside linebacker on the roster who can be counted as a future playmaker, so finding one next offseason may finally become a priority.
The Redskins inside linebacking situation may be at an all-time low talent-wise, and that need to change quickly if this team wants to contend in the near future.