Before we turn all of our thoughts toward free agency, the NFL Draft and the 2016 season. Breaking Burgundy will put a bow on the Washington Redskins NFC East-winning 2015 campaign, player report card style. Peter Hailey on the highlights, lowlights and what the immediate future holds for all members of the Burgundy and Gold though he took a more expanded look at...
Player: Perry Riley.
Position: Inside linebacker
Contract Status: One year left on his deal
Ended 2015 as: An injured defender who saw his job taken over by the formerly undrafted Will Compton. He ended up missing the team’s last five regular season contests plus the playoff loss to Green Bay with a foot issue, but had already lost a chunk of playing time to Compton prior to the ailment.
Preseason buzz: For Riley, it wasn’t as much a buzz as it was a fairly quiet hum. The LSU product has been with the Burgundy and Gold since 2010, and his skillset is defined at this point in his career: He’s a fairly reliable tackler that can do damage when he’s moving north and south, but runs into difficulties when tasked with matching up against receivers or running east and west. So, the expectation was that he’d continue to be a fair to pretty good option for Joe Barry’s defense, a capable role player behind some of the unit’s bigger names.
Season highs: Against New Orleans and with his starting job in doubt, Riley put together one of the best performances of his NFL life. His normally weak pass coverage was especially sharp, as he made a remarkable, one-handed interception while falling backwards to go along with another leaping deflected pass. He then recorded his second INT a few weeks later against the Giants at home in one of Washington’s most important wins in 2015.
Season lows: In the New England matchup, which was the beginning of the Compton takeover, Riley didn’t record a tackle. That was a forgettable day for #56. But the hardest part for him was likely the foot injury he suffered during a practice that interrupted his resurgence. He looked like he was reclaiming his spot, but his year ended before he truly could.
Off the field highlight: This tweet from Ricky Jean-Francois implies that Riley was able to get rookie pass rusher Preston Smith, a Mississippi State guy, to wear Riley’s alma mater’s colors. That’s a victory for Riley.
Grade: C. It was a mediocre season that had ups and downs, and was ultimately cut short before it could rise up to a higher grade.
2016 expectations: Riley carries with him a decent cap number (the 10th highest on Washington, in fact), so he could be in line for a release or perhaps a pay cut. If he is indeed brought back, however, the expectation will be for him to compete with Compton and Mason Foster (and others, if Scot McCloughan deems more competition necessary) for one of the two inside linebacker starting jobs. Depending on which version of 2015 Riley we see, that could go poorly or positively for him. In the end, it’ll be on him and his play as to which route the next portion of his career goes if he stays in D.C.
Follow Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.
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