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2017 Redskins Season In Review: Inside Linebackers

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Before missing the final three games of the season, Zach Brown proved to be a productive free agent signing for the Redskins, as he collected 127 tackles in 13 games and was named a Pro Bowl alternate.


As the Redskins head into the offseason looking to get back to their winning ways, Redskins.com will provide position-by-position reflections from the 2017 squad.

Up next: the inside linebackers. 

REVIEW OF THE UNIT:
In his lone season with the Buffalo Bills in 2016, Zach Brown turned himself from a quality starting inside linebacker into a Pro Bowler, finishing the year with 149 tackles – second most in the NFL – along with 2.5 sacks and two passes defensed.

Check out the Redskins top 10 players in 2017 for defensive snap counts .

Despite his success in Buffalo, Brown's turn to sign with a new team during free agency was longer than expected. Eventually on April 4, the University of North Carolina product signed with the Redskins, ending a nearly month long search for his next home.

Immediately, Brown made an impact for Washington's defense. In each of the first three games of the year, the 28-year-old would record at least 10 total tackles. In eight of his 13 outings, in fact, Brown would record double-digit totals in tackles while leading the league in combined tackles for much of the season.

While Brown didn't play in the Redskins' final three games of the season after playing through numerous lower body injuries, he still finished ninth in tackles with 127.

To begin the year, Mason Foster started opposite of Brown at the Mike linebacker spot. The University of Washington product sealed a Week 2 victory over the Los Angeles Rams with an interception off Jared Goff late in the game. Despite the pick, Foster played through most of the game with a torn labrum that would eventually sideline him for 11 games in total.

With Foster sidelined for the second half of the year, Will Compton was the next man up for Washington's inside linebackers. A starter and captain during the 2016 season, Compton was a veteran backup the Redskins figured they could count on in spot situations.

The was clear in a Week 9 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, as Compton logged nine tackles, three passes defensed and one interception. But like Foster, Compton's season was cut short by an injury.

In November, the University of Nebraska product was placed on Injured Reserve with a Lisfranc injury.

As Compton and Foster spent the final months on Injured Reserve and Brown would miss time, too, the Redskins counted on the pairing of Zach Vigil and Martrell Spaight with Josh Harvey-Clemons receiving some reps as well.

Vigil spent time with the Redskins during training camp before being released in September during the cutdown from 90 to 53 players. He had spent time with Buffalo before the Redskins signed him to their active roster.

In the final seven games of the year, Vigil recorded 59 tackles – 30 of which came in Weeks 16 and 17 -- with two passes defensed and one fumble recovered.

Spaight, meanwhile, posted career highs in combined tackles (75), solo tackles (45) and passes defensed (two).

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE GROUP:
Brown, Foster and Compton are all set to become unrestricted free agents at the turn of the new league year.

Brown, of course, was playing at a high level before missing the final three games of the season, all coming after Washington was eliminated from playoff contention.

As for Foster, he has been a productive player for the Redskins since signing with the team mid-season in 2015. In 34 games over the last three years, Foster has collected 134 tackles.

Compton, meanwhile, has spent his whole career to date with the Redskins after joining the team as a college free agent signing in 2013.

He said he's had conversations with the team about returning and his hope is that he'll be back with the Redskins along with others like Brown and Foster.

"It'd be big to bring as many guys as you can back from free agency that have contributed and a part of the whole deal, because again, this year we had a hell of a team to start the year off," Compton said earlier this month. "With injuries and stuff like that, I think I saw one report of all the money we had on IR. We have a great team. You get a couple pieces on free agency and the draft, we're close."

While the Redskins will have to determine the status for all three veterans in the coming weeks, Vigil, Spaight, Harvey-Clemons and Otha Peters are currently under contract for the 2018 season.

Vigil was someone who impressed the coaching staff down the stretch, as he was thrust into a starting role just days after being signed to the active roster.

"I've been very, very impressed with Zach Vigil," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden last month. "I mean, he's done a great job. …The most impressive to me is the way he communicates the defense. Coming over here late in the game as he did – of course he was here in training camp, but still – coming over here and being able to communicate the defense like he did effortlessly has been a blessing in disguise.

"He's been outstanding, not only with the communication, but his play. He's reading the runs and fitting and a solid tackler and he's been good in pass coverage."

SEASON IN REVIEW

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