Back­ups Spaight, Foster shine af­ter starters fall to in­juries

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TOMMY CHALK

When Red­skins start­ing lineback­ers Will Comp­ton and Su’a Cravens went down with in­juries Sun­day, there was more than just the game against the Philadel­phia Ea­gles on the line: A third con­sec­u­tive loss would have all but elim­i­nated Wash­ing­ton from the NFC play­off pic­ture.

In­stead of buck­ling, the bat­tered Red­skins line­backer corps saved the 27-22 win, and maybe the sea­son, with a cou­ple of un­sung back­ups, Ma­son Foster and Martrell Spaight, step­ping in, mak­ing timely stops and one su­per­star, Ryan Ker­ri­gan, play­ing like, well, a su­per­star, with his strip-sack of Ea­gles rookie quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz to end the game.

Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den said Mon­day the in­juries to Cravens and Comp­ton were not as se­ri­ous as feared, and told re­porters that if the two starters can’t go against the Carolina Pan­thers Mon­day, Foster and Spaight will again be asked to pick up the slack.

Comp­ton, the Red­skins’ de­fen­sive cap­tain, has been the core mid­dle line­backer for the en­tirety of the sea­son. Cravens, the top-flight rookie of the de­fen­sive team, has es­sen­tially been the unit’s ver­sion of a Swiss Army Knife, with an abil­ity to line up as a line­backer or as a mem­ber of the sec­ondary.

Comp­ton’s MRI showed a sprained pos­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment, while Cravens is deal­ing with a brachialis strain, an in­jury to the deep muscle lo­cated be­tween his bi­cep and el­bow. Both play­ers are “day-to-day, weekto-week,” Gru­den said.

Comp­ton said af­ter Sun­day’s game he was op­ti­mistic about his in­jury sit­u­a­tion. Cravens was seen with his arm in a sling in the locker room.

“Ini­tially with the lack of mo­bil­ity af­ter the game, we were con­cerned,” Gru­den said Mon­day. “But we got ba­si­cally good news on the MRI. Now, it’s just a mat­ter of him get­ting his strength and move­ment back and I don’t know how long that could take.”

Gru­den said he was im­pressed with the play of Foster, who has du­eled with op­pos­ing of­fenses along­side Comp­ton as a mid­dle line­backer all year. Against the Ea­gles, Foster played in 97.4 per­cent of the Red­skins’ de­fen­sive snaps — up from his sea­son av­er­age of 62.7 per­cent of the Red­skins’ de­fen­sive snaps. His 97.4 per­cent rat­ing against the Ea­gles re­flects how much the Red­skins missed Comp­ton, who had played on 97.52 per­cent of the Red­skins’ de­fen­sive snaps this sea­son, more than any other de­fen­sive player on the ros­ter.

But while Foster’s play­ing time al­most cer­tainly will rise, Gru­den said it would ac­tu­ally be Spaight who would fill in — if Comp­ton can’t go — as the Mike line­backer. Spaight filled in in the role against Philadel­phia, and Gru­den says that he was not only happy with his per­for­mance, he thinks he re­ally set­tled in to the po­si­tion.

“He could be our start­ing mid­dle line­backer,” Gru­den said of Spaight. “He did do well when he came in for Comp­ton. He made a cou­ple [of] big-time plays. The screen that [the Ea­gles] caught on a third-dow­nand-15, we tack­led them for a gain of 12 or 13 — he got cut on the play, got up and made a heck of a play that was a touch­down-sav­ing tackle, quite frankly. He did some good things, and I think once he got com­fort­able back in the role, he did well.”

Gru­den sees Foster step­ping in for Cravens if he is un­able to go.

“Ma­son took over, played a lot of that role there and did a great job,” Gru­den said. “Ma­son played a lot of snaps yes­ter­day and didn’t wear down. I was happy for his per­for­mance.”

The Red­skins have the ben­e­fit of an ex­tra day of rest and re­cov­ery be­fore the Mon­day Night Foot­ball show­down with Carolina.

“It’s this time of year where we are banged up,” Gru­den said. “You saw our in­jury re­port last week, and it’ll prob­a­bly be sim­i­lar this week. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up, so an ex­tra day of heal­ing will be great.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins line­backer Ma­son Foster tack­les Philadel­phia Ea­gles tight end Zach Ertz on Sun­day. Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den said he was im­pressed with Foster’s play af­ter a pair of starters went down with in­juries.

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