Five questions the Redskins must start to answer during training camp
Can the youth at the linebacker position step up?
With the news of Mason Foster being released, the Redskins become incredibly thin in the middle of their defense. At a position where the team already lost Reuben Foster to an ACL tear released veteran Zach Brown earlier this offseason, inside linebacker becomes the biggest question mark on the defense and could become one of the more glaring holes on this Washington team. This clears a path for the young core to really step up. It also shows confidence in free agent signing Jon Bostic.
Second-year linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton immediately becomes one of the starters for Washington after showing flashes in a limited role during his rookie season. Tallying 27 tackles in 16 games, 4 of which he started, Hamilton has a lot to prove to secure a starting spot for years to come. His ability to drop into coverage, as well as fly downhill to stuff the run gives him a chance to become a more valuable piece than either Foster or Brown were in their years here in Washington.
Hamilton was taken as part of Washington’s love affair with Alabama defensive players, and so far, the belief in the former members of the Crimson Tide front seven has paid off. Hamilton has an opportunity to become the next in a long line of successful Alabama players from the Saban era, and with any luck, Washington will find a long term answer on defense. His camp and preseason will show if he’s ready to take the next step for Washington or if the team will have to look elsewhere at inside linebacker for the upcoming season.
The team brought in veteran Jon Bostic. The veteran linebacker who most recently was in Pittsburgh provides solid tackling ability and leadership for a young group that has little experience under their belt. Bostic, who has totaled 170 total tackles the past two seasons, will come in and fill in for Mason Foster nicely.
While Foster was a sure tackler, he lacked consistency in the passing game and often was found trailing out of position. In Foster’s defense, a lot of his bad plays were him covering for the miscues of Zach Brown, Ryan Anderson, and the defensive line. While Bostic is not going to be a world-beater, he will provide a solid ability to wrap up and finish plays.
Cole Holcomb, the fifth-round rookie out of North Carolina, will look to push Bostic for playing time in his first training camp. Holcomb is coming off a season where he had over 100 tackles and 8.0 tackles for loss and will enter camp in a great position and an opportunity to climb up on the depth chart.
Holcomb has a similar build to former Washington linebacker Will Compton at 6-1 and 235, but plays bigger than he is. Speedy and athletic, Holcomb will provide great pressure in the run game and should be able to push the pocket on passing downs. His athleticism will allow for him to drop into coverage and take on tight-end matchups or running backs out of the backfield.
Inside linebacker just became an interesting storyline in Washington’s preseason and could begin to shape itself early on into camp. With three front runners vying for a starting gig, it allows for a potential bubble player in Josh Harvey-Clemmons to once again solidify his spot on the final 53 and allow him to find the field in passing situations this season.
With Foster leaving, the linebacker spot did get thinner, but it allows for the youth of this team to get valuable experience right away. With any luck, Washington’s defense will improve by getting younger, faster, and more versatile.