Even though he was a little nervous to start against the Jets last week, it didn't stop Redskins linebacker Martrell Spaight from continuing a strong preseason campaign.
Things appear to finally be turning around for Martrell Spaight.
When his rookie season ended after playing just nine snaps, Spaight's trajectory to becoming a successful NFL player came to a standstill.
After being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft from Arkansas, following a successful senior campaign which he finished with 128 tackles, everything seemed to be going in a positive direction. Spaight was performing well on special teams and learning how to be an NFL linebacker for the future.
A concussion, however, nipped his consistent progress. By the end of September, it became clear Spaight needed extensive time to get healthy and was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve.
Now with a full recovery, he appears to be headed back on the right track. Spaight currently leads the defense after two preseason games with 10 total tackles, seven of which were solo. His success also led to a spot start against the New York Jets last Friday as the coaching staff wanted to see how he'd respond.
"I was proud of him. It's really amazing when you get an opportunity to be around players as rookies and then kind of see the whole growth, you know, and especially with Spaight's situation with getting hurt and missing the whole year," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "I'm proud of him with what he's… now he's still got a million miles to go, but the difference between Martrell Spaight year one and year two, he's building blocks, which is good. And to be able to go start a game, run the huddle, run the defense, play the entire half, play like he did, kind of drive the bus, I was very happy."
Check out images of rookie linebacker Martrell Spaight during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.
For Spaight, the opportunity to make an impression with the first team and show that he is the same player, if not better, was a long time coming.
"At first I had butterflies, but you know you just got to be confident in whatever you're doing and knowing that you know what to do," Spaight said. "The defense around me made sure I had my head on straight, made sure everything was good and I just went out there with confidence that I knew what I was doing and then had no second guesses."
His instincts paid off with a strong performance but some behind-the-scenes assistance by starting Mike linebacker Will Compton, also played a major role. The veteran has been assisting Spaight in getting back to form and teaching him even more about the game of football.
The work by both players to help the second-year player improve even had Redskins head coach Jay Gruden excited about what is to come and what most certainly appears to be a very different season ahead with most likely far more than nine snaps.
"(Spaight's) getting back into the groove and playing well and communicating well. We feel really good about that linebacker spot having two of them that can make the calls," Gruden said. "To have two good inside linebackers that can make the calls and get the players in the right spot is very important. How much (Spaight's) going to play on game day – Monday night – I don't know yet, but I think throughout the course of a 16-game season, he's going to get plenty of playing time."