To say the Redskins linebacker play in 2018 was not good may be the understatement of the decade. Guys were playing injured, while others simply couldn’t get off blocks, stop running backs from turning the corner, or make plays in the passing game.
And then there was this...all coming from a player who was a defensive liability throughout much of the season.
Welp, the MFoster stuff is confirmed. So that's a huge locker room disaster looming. Should be another fun week. pic.twitter.com/OiXotniL5l— Burgundy Blog (@BurgundyBlog) December 12, 2018
Things got a bit better when rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton began to earn more time as the year progressed. His maturation throughout the second half of the season gave Redskins fans a glimmer of hope for the future.
There is something else that could give Redskins fans some hope for the future as well at the move linebacker position - Reuben Foster.
The Redskins claimed Reuben Foster after he was released by the 49ers stemming from an incident with his former girlfriend at the team hotel in Tampa in November. He didn’t play a down for the Skins in 2018, as he was immediately placed on the commissioner Exempt List while the NFL conducted it’s own investigation.
News broke in early January that the charges against Foster in his latest run-in with the law were dropped.
Redskins' Reuben Foster Has Domestic Violence Charge Dropped.— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) January 4, 2019
Prosecutors say there was insufficient evidence to file charges after "a meticulous review of the facts of the case.”
-State Attorney's Office. https://t.co/uTQvJOCZTv
Still, the NFL needs to conclude its own investigation, and determine if a suspension will be handed out under the Personal Conduct Policy.
But, this little nugget was recently dropped by our friends over at Burgundy Blog:
Learned some off-record deets y'day re: hotel incident that got Reuben Foster cut by Niners. They are exculpatory. I am LESS certain that he will incur a multi-game suspension in 2019.— Burgundy Blog (@BurgundyBlog) January 15, 2019
Foster’s status still remains very much up in the air for the 2019 season, but I wanted to take a look at the impact the former Alabama linebacker can have if and when he hits the field for the Redskins.
Foster dropped weight at the 2017 NFL Combine, coming in at 6’0” 229 pounds. His playing weight for the 49ers was closer to 240 pounds. In Foster, the Redskins are getting a lightning-quick sledgehammer, who can play sideline-to-sideline, beat a running back to the corner, spy a mobile QB, blitz from anywhere in the box, and cover running backs, tight ends and even receivers in the passing game.
He’s truly a complete MOVE Linebacker!
Below, you’ll see Foster down by the goalline. He reads the play, sees and shoots the gap, and makes the tackle for no gain. This play is all about instincts and athleticism, and Foster possesses both.
R Foster looks like he was shot out of a cannon! This is how a LB is supposed to play! pic.twitter.com/SXMKqmWg6O— Mark Tyler(Hogs Haven) (@Tiller56) January 7, 2019
In the next play, you’ll see the athleticism and movement skills Foster bring to the table. He sees the down-block by the right side of the line and reacts to it, but quickly diagnoses the pulling guard, and re-directs himself. Contain gets lost by the DE, but Foster gets around the outside to seal off the edge before slicing back inside to take down the ball carrier. This is one hell of a play here by Reuben, and a play not many linebackers in the league can make.
This is as athletic a play by an ILB you’ll see. Even after taking a right step, Foster sees the pulling guard, gets to the outside to set the edge the DE lost, slips around the edge, and still make the play for no gain. pic.twitter.com/adkdxLwM4A— Mark Tyler(Hogs Haven) (@Tiller56) January 7, 2019
Below you’ll see the correct way to use leverage to take on a interior linemen at the point of attack, stack the block, and then make the play on the running back for a short gain. This is something the Redskins linebackers struggled to do this past season. Notice how Foster stays in balance, keeps his eyes in the backfield, and just before impact lowers his body to be able to take on the block of the much larger linemen. You can see the lower-body strength and ability to shoot the hips through contact.
Foster takes on the guard and makes the play for a short gain. pic.twitter.com/Bre37iUwwz— Mark Tyler(Hogs Haven) (@Tiller56) January 7, 2019
This final play is one of my favorites. Foster is showing blitz off the edge, but backs off into coverage at the snap. He drops into his zone, but notice how he reads the QB’s eyes, and the awareness of the receivers around him. Once he sees Rodgers vacate the pocket, he goes into pursuit. Notice two things here; first, is the awareness to peek behind him to see if a receiver is breaking open, and second, the closing speed he has coming all the way from the opposite hash.
Foster lined up to the R side of GB’s formation showing blitz. At the snap he drops into coverage and takes a receiver out of the play. Rodgers scrambles opposite and Foster shows amazing closing speed to chase him down forcing him to slide. pic.twitter.com/R4AGueChhW— Mark Tyler(Hogs Haven) (@Tiller56) January 7, 2019
Some have questioned Foster’s production when he first got into the league, but aside from the off-field incidents, I believe the only thing holding him back were some nagging injuries.
Foster started as a rookie, but an ankle injury in his first game caused him to miss his next five starts. Shortly after returning, he suffered a rib injury, but played through the pain for the rest of the season, making 72 combines tackles in 10 starts, to go along with seven tackles for a loss, five QB hits and a pass defended. He was given a 90.7 overall grade by Pro Football Focus, which ranked him first among all rookie linebackers and fourth in the league among all linebackers with at least 10 games played.
His 2018 season started with a two game suspension for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. He returned to play in six games (all starts), and recorded 29 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two QB hits and one pass defended before being released by the 49ers.
The Redskins are in dire need of help at inside linebacker. Foster has the pedigree, awareness, athleticism and tackling ability to be a force in this defense. He can play either the MIKE or JACK in a 3-4 base, and all three linebacker positions in a 4-3 look. He is the type of athlete who doesn’t need to come off the field in passing situations, and is an effective blitzer when asked to do so.
Let’s hope, for the Redskins sake, that Foster is not suspended for any games during the 2019 season. If he’s able to play, he will be a force at linebacker in this league for years to come - hopefully all with the Redskins!