Over the next week, Redskins reporter Tarik El-Bashir will examine five candidates to break out in 2013. Today, we’re looking at inside linebacker Perry Riley.
Key stats: 129 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 7 passes defended.
Contract status: Signed through 2013 ($1.32 million)
2012: In his first full season as a starter, Riley proved to be one of the Redskins most durable and productive players.
The third-year pro out of LSU ranked second on the team in total tackles (behind London Fletcher’s 139) and recorded double digit tackles four times to help anchor the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense.
Riley also came through in the clutch: he recorded a career-high 15 tackles against the Ravens, was dominant in Philadelphia in Week 16 (8 tackles, sack) and notched 2.5 of his sacks during the team’s seven-game winning streak.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Riley led the team with 45 ‘stops’ while missing nine tackles, the second lowest total among starting linebackers on the Redskins. The 24-year-old also lined up for all but 19 of Washington’s 1,186 snaps on defense and triggered as escalator in his contract, bumping his base salary from $630,000 to $1.323 million next season, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Outlook: Although it could be argued that Riley’s breakout season arrived 2012, his play left some observers wondering if he could be even better in his second full season as a starter.
Given his physical attributes, high motor and instincts, there would seem to be no reason he couldn’t crack the top-10 in tackles, right? (His total this season ranked 14th.)
Or, for that matter, grab an interception or two to go along with his improving pass coverage skills. (For comparison’s sake, Fletcher recorded a career-best five INTs this season; Riley is still looking for the first of his career).
In summary, Riley made a significant jump from 2011 to 2012 when it came to the details of the game such as positioning and preparation. With some fine-tuning this offseason, it wouldn't a surprise if he elevated his game to star-player status and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2013.