LANDOVER, Md. — Redskins inside linebacker Perry Riley, Jr. needs surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot and could miss the rest of the regular season.
Riley was injured during practice on Thursday. An MRI showed a break of the fifth metatarsal and he will miss three to six weeks, according to coach Jay Gruden.
That’s a blow for Riley, who had been playing better in recent weeks after enduring criticism for his play in coverage earlier in the season. With inside linebacker Keenan Robinson (shoulder) still not healthy, the Redskins are now without the two players who have spent the past two years as starters at inside linebacker.
Will Compton had already supplanted Robinson in the lineup, Gruden said earlier this week. That likely wouldn’t change even when Robinson is ready to return. That’s still far from a given. And so Mason Foster, signed as a free agent on Sept. 29, takes over Riley’s spot as the Moe linebacker.
“[Riley] was playing well. Very well,” Gruden said. “The last two weeks he’s been playing outstanding for us and playing with a lot of confidence. It’s a big loss.”
Riley has had two interceptions in the last three games. On Thursday after practice, he didn’t have a protective boot or cast on the foot and seemed unconcerned about the pending MRI. That all changed on Friday.
“I feel like I’ve had impact in years before, but a lot of stuff goes unnoticed,” Riley said. “A lot of the fans or maybe even media kind of see where the ball goes all the time. I’ve done my job here pretty good for some years now. Now, I’m just starting to get interceptions, I guess. So maybe that’s where everybody thinks I’m playing so much better. I’ve been doing my job ever since I’ve been in this role.”
But there’s no question Riley has struggled at times in coverage. He doesn’t always have the foot speed to keep up with opposing tight ends or backs. The New England game on Nov. 8 proved that when Riley was beat twice for touchdown catches. Still, he’s been a long-standing starter since 2011.
Foster, 26, was a surprise cut by the Chicago Bears at the end of training camp this past summer, but the 2011 third-round draft pick started 56 games in his four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But injuries hampered his 2014 season there.
“[Foster] has done a good job in the time that he’s been here,” Gruden said. “He hasn’t had a lot of reps on game day, but out at practice he’s gotten a lot of reps. He knows the defense and he’s a veteran, physical guy. He’ll step in and do fine.”
A dislocated left shoulder cost Foster three games early in the season. An Achilles tendon injury kept him out for three more near the end. That was it for Foster in Tampa. Now, he has a chance for legitimate playing time in Washington.
“[Foster] is a pro,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “That’s the thing I’ve been most impressed with him the [nine] weeks he’s been here. He came in and went right to work.”
Meanwhile, Robinson doesn’t appear ready to play. He was listed as limited in practice on Friday, but hasn’t appeared in a game since Nov. 8. Robinson is poised to miss his fourth game in a row.
“We haven’t talked about [position switches]. Keenan is still progressing,” Barry said. “Once we know Keenan is 100 percent healthy that might be up for discussion. He did a little more [Friday] than he did [Thursday].”