Despite playing just nine snaps as a rookie, Martrell Spaight could add depth and special teams help to the Redskins in 2016.
In many ways, Martrell Spaight is a forgotten man for the Washington Redskins.
While Mason Foster (who re-signed) and Will Compton (who had a tender extended to him) are expected to return at inside linebacker in 2016, and Keenan Robinson signed with the New York Giants after an oft-injured four-year career in Washington bookmarked by him losing a spot in the starting lineup in 2015, Spaight has quietly been getting himself ready for a rebound season in 2016.
Selected by the Redskins in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Spaight wasn't necessarily going to crack the starting lineup immediately as a rookie. But the man whose hard-hitting tackling style became known as "Spaighting" during his college career was expected to be a special teams contributor while slowly learning what it takes to become a successful NFL linebacker.
Just nine snaps into his debut season, however, Spaight was lost to a season-ending concussion.
"At the moment it just felt like things weren't clearing up," Spaight, who was held out for a few weeks while in concussion protocol on Sept. 22 before being placed on Injured Reserve, recalled. "I was wanting to play and there was all these things kind of coming at once. So I think it kind of played a role in hindering my recovery, but I've been good for a couple of weeks now. Since the time, I've just been preparing myself."
Foster and Compton may be in line for starting spots entering the season (the two performed well together during their trial run together in December), but Spaight could provide some depth, too.
Last season, four different inside linebackers recorded at least 250 defensive snaps during the regular season.
Check out these photos of Arkansas linebacker Martrell Spaight, the 141st-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
But while he possesses some of the physical tools this coaching staff loves, linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti admits Spaight has to take his game to the next level this season.
"Martrell has got to take some more steps for us," linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said. "He did a nice job, he ended up making the team outright and played in the first game of the season and then got hurt and was put on IR, and he's a guy that's going to be competing and he's kind of understanding [that] the level of competition that there is in the NFL, because there will be more people to compete with."
If he does excel against internal competition and eventually gets his moment in the spotlight, Spaight could be someone of the London Fletcher mold: not the biggest, but capable of making plays.
"Martrell ... very productive player," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said last season. "A one-year player who really did some things in college as a linebacker, physical linebacker. Makes a ton of plays. Very, very productive in the games that he played. Very exciting. He likes to hit, you can see that. He doesn't back down from any contact. He'll be a player to be reckoned with."