This series asks a few more detailed questions about the newest Redskins. This year I had the pleasure of once again asking the writers at Roll ‘Bama Roll about a couple of the Redskins draft picks. Brent Taylor gave us some great information regarding new Redskin ILB Shaun Dion Hamilton.
Cadillactica: Let’s address the elephant in the room with this player first: his injuries. For our readers, I would feel remiss if I did not mention that Dion-Hamilton was one of the better linebackers in college football in 2016 when he was playing with Reuben Foster. Since that time though he has had two major injuries. Redskins fans outlook for this player may not be positive because the team itself is coming off an injury-riddled season. What does Dion Hamilton have to do to stay healthy? One of our readers suggested he get a redshirt year to completely heal. What do you think about that? Will an NFL program help him with his injury issues?
Brent Taylor: What does he have to do to stay healthy? Not be so unlucky. He’s never had any issues with nagging or muscular injuries that are indicative of a truly injury-prone player or poor conditioning. He took a shot to the knee at the end of 2016 and tore his ACL, but rehabbed it all offseason and got back in to the starting rotation just a couple of games into 2017. Then he fractured a knee cap on some weird freak accident thing against LSU only 9 games later.
I don’t know much about fractured kneecaps, but if it’s a similar timeline of recovery to an ACL tear, then I’d expect he’d be ready to go by the start of the season. Or it could be worse and the redshirt year might help. You’ll have to ask a doctor on that one. But I don’t think you have to worry about him being injury prone in the future. Both were kind of unlucky, unpreventable accidents.
Cadillactica: If he does get a shot to play this year it will likely be on special teams as the Redskins starting inside linebackers are set. Did he play a bit of special teams at Alabama and do you think he can stand out there enough to get more chances on defense?
Brent Taylor: Hamilton actually got his initial notoriety at Alabama as a hard-hitting gunner on the kick coverage team. As he progressed into a regular defender, he transitioned off of special teams, so it’s been a while, but yes, he’s been an impact special teamer in the past.
Cadillactica: The Redskins have really tough opponents within the division at the TE, RB, and slot WR positions. As a result, fans for many years have been pounding the table to invest in two inside linebackers that can run with and cover these guys. Hamilton could not test because of his injury but can you give us an idea of his athleticism? Can he stick with an Ertz or Engram in the seam? Can he stick with a Barkley, Elliot, or Ajayi out of the backfield?
Brent Taylor: Coming out of high school, Hamilton participated in one of Nike’s The Opening combines and got some official/verified testing numbers. 4.80 forty, 4.09 20-yard shuttle, and a 36-inch vertical. The forty is less than impressive, but both the shuttle and vertical would have been elite numbers for a receiver, let alone a linebacker. So, what does that say? He’s not the fastest in straight lines, but he’s explosive in short areas and can change directions quickly and easily. He’s an exceptional coverage guy in zone, but keeping up with Evan Engram running a streak down the seam might be too much to ask.
Cadillactica: Dion-Hamilton was off to a hot start this year as well before he went down can you tell us more about the inside linebacker position at Alabama? Before he went down was he ILB1 and Evans was ILB2? What were the responsibilities between the two? Can you tell us where you think he fits best in the NFL (as Mike or Will)?
Brent Taylor: Hamilton is definitely a Mike. He’s a smart dude (started out in engineering at Alabama) with quick instincts and loves filling up holes and hitting a running back head on. He’s experienced in being the center guy in the defense who makes the calls and leads position group shifts and audibles based on offensive formations. In fact, he actually did all of that job while Reuben Foster got the Will’s job of “chase people down and hit them”.
Cadillactica: I mentioned that the starting ILBs are set for the Redskins right now but Mason Foster’s spot could be up for grabs in the future what can a healthy Shuan Dion Hamilton be to the Redskins? Could he be a starting ILB in the NFL and how good do you think he can be?
Brent Taylor: I absolutely think he can be a starter, and a solid one at that. He’s a smart, consistent player with excellent tackling and play-diagnostic abilities. He’s one of those players that’s just a natural leader. That said, I don’t think he’ll ever be any more than just a solid starter. He’s not fast enough or big enough to be a true defensive enforcer and elite playmaker.
Cadillactica: Can you give us a sense of his strengths and weaknesses? How are his instincts and how does he diagnose read and react? Is he better at playing the run or rushing the passer etc?
Brent Taylor: I’ve kind of hit on all of these in the above questions, but I’ll summarize here: Hamilton is a smart, instinctual player who reacts quickly to plays and has the short-area quickness to supplement his quick brain. He’s a downhill hard-hitter in the middle of the field who cherishes taking on a running back head on in the hole and rarely misses tackles. He’s decent in zone coverage, if not special, and is experienced at being the leader of a defense and the main communicator between the play-caller and the rest of the defense. But he’s limited by his lack of speed, and can’t keep up with faster tight ends going down the seam or a running back beating him around the edge.
Cadillactica: If you had to choose one word or short phrase to describe Dion-Hamilton what would it be?
Brent Taylor: Smart
I want to thank Brent again for this Q&A. I think the Redskins certainly rolled the dice by selecting Hamilton, even in the 6th round, because of his injury history. I think the team has confidence he can be healthy as a pro and if that is the case they may have gotten a big steal.