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Riley Becoming More Comfortable As a Starter


Second-year linebacker Perry Riley is emerging as a late-season bright spot for the Redskins' defense.

Riley has started the last three games -- his first NFL start was in Week 10 at Miami -- and has registered 35 tackles. That's second only to 14-year veteran London Fletcher on the defense.

Riley is gaining valuable experience. He has noticed a difference in the way he has played over the past three games.

"In the game, things are a lot clearer, it's easier to see what's going on," Riley said. "I think experiencing the game, you learn faster, you catch on to things faster that way."

Along with playing time has come growing pains, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has liked what he has seen so far.

Haslett praised Riley for his good physical skills and instincts.

"Perry's done a lot of good things, but obviously he's done some things he has to get better at," Haslett said. "He's instinctive. He has a good nose for the ball. If nothing else, he's fast and he'll run to the ball. He may not know where he's going, but he knows where the ball is. I think playing linebacker, sometimes, that's half the battle."

Haslett indicated Riley needed to work on maintaining gaps in run defense, ensuring that he is in position to make tackles.

"A lot of young guys, we throw in and we live with the mistakes," Haslett said. "Again, you see a lot of the upside. It will pay off for this team in the long run with these guys."

Coaches have eased Riley and other young players into the lineup this season.

Every player wants to play, of course, but Riley likes that approach.

"I like the way Coach [Mike] Shanahan has handled me, slowing down practice," Riley said. "We do a lot more walk-throughs now where there's more learning instead of just force-feeding everything. I feel comfortable doing it that way.

"I feel like I have grown a lot just getting the experience in the games and being able to be out there and play."

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