As the 2016 NFL preseason hits the all-important “dress rehearsals” (or at least as important as a game that doesn’t count can get) position battles across the league of interest to IDP owners are being decided. One of those battles has been happening in the nation’s capital, where Perry Riley and Mason Foster have been vying to start at inside linebacker next to Will Compton.
Well, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Friday’s contest against the Buffalo Bills may have sealed the deal. “Joe Barry and his defense entered training camp with most of the starting jobs nailed down,” Jones said. “But uncertainty loomed over the second starting inside linebacker position. Friday night, Mason Foster seemed to put his stamp on the inside linebacker spot next to last year’s leading tackler, Will Compton.”
It isn’t exactly a surprise that Foster came out on top. After taking over for an injured Riley in Week 13 last year, Foster held down the gig into camp as Riley’s recovery from a foot injury was slower than expected. The sixth year veteran told Brian Skinnell of the team’s website earlier this month that he entered 2016 with the intention of securing a big role in the Washington defense.
“I spent a lot of time working really hard trying to learn the system and learning little things,” Foster said. “I feel really comfortable in this defense you know where your weaknesses are and you know where you can take shots.”
Foster went on to say that he and Compton made a point of spending time together in the off-season. “We try to spend as much time together during this off-season,” Foster said. “We try to go to linebacker dinners and try to learn as much about each other as we can because this is where you spend most of your time.”
The work Foster put in impressed head coach Jay Gruden. “You have to see blocking schemes and react fast and both Mason and Will [Compton] do a great job of that,” Gruden said. “They’re very smart football players.”
Foster told Jones that holding off Riley to keep his starting job has helped elevate his game. “I feel like this is kind of unique,” Foster said. “All the teams I’ve been on in the past, we never had this type of depth. We had solid guys, but not guys that are that good, who can step in and play, and start. So, it really makes you have to bring your ‘A’ game and be at the top of that game.”
“It’s pushing everybody,” Foster said. “I have to study harder and work on my weaknesses, and it makes them have to work harder. It makes everyone well-rounded and we all have to step up and bring our ‘A’ game. It’s a friendly competition. We just all want to get better.”
Mind you, it’s not as if Foster is a complete unknown as a player. The 27-year-old was a third round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2011. In his second NFL season, Foster started all 16 games in the middle for the Bucs and racked up 105 total tackles. And of the inside linebackers for the Redskins who logged over 100 snaps in 2015, Foster received the highest grade from Pro Football Focus.
He also posted decent fantasy production as a starter last year. Down the stretch (from Weeks 13-16) in 2015, Foster was LB26 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring. Not a worldbeater by any stretch (there’s a reason he’s on his third NFL team), but still a high-end LB3 or “flex” option.
Now, with rookie Su’a Cravens also in the fold this year subpackage snaps and Foster’s long-term grasp on the job next to Compton aren’t certain. But when you’re combing through the LB scrap heap late in drafts very little is.
But there’s enough potential, pedigree and opportunity present with Foster to at least get him on the radar in deeper IDP leagues as a late depth pick with a puncher’s chance of finding his way into your weekly lineup.