When the Washington Redskins selected guard Josh LeRibeus out of Southern Methodist University with their third pick of the draft, Coach Mike Shanahan believed that he was getting not only a player capable of fitting well into his zone blocking scheme at guard, but also someone who could be an answer at center.
So, when the Redskins held their three-day rookie minicamp over the weekend, Shanahan and offensive line coach Chris Foerster had the 6-foot-3, 312-pound LeRibeus work exclusively at center.
The position wasn’t completely foreign to LeRibeus. He had never played it in a game at SMU, but he served as backup center in practice. And to make himself more versatile, LeRibeus spent the months leading up to the draft working on his snaps.
LeRibeus said he didn’t encounter many problems at minicamp.
“Luckily I’ve been working on those snaps, so it wasn’t any trouble,” the lineman said. “The playbook’s huge, but they have a way of teaching it, and Coach Foerster is great and I’m picking it up fine.”
Shanahan said that he didn’t see any problems, either.
“He picked it up in one day like he’s been doing it his whole career. But he worked on it during the season,” Shanahan said. “I talked to [SMU coach] June Jones, and he said, ‘Mike, if our center goes down, he’s the first guy to go in.’ So, when you practice it throughout your career, usually it’s pretty easy.”
The Redskins struggled on offense last season partly because of a lack of depth on the interior of their offensive line. Kory Lichtensteiger’s season ended when he tore his ACL and MCL in the fifth game, and center Will Montgomery moved to left guard as Erik Cook came off the bench to play center. Both struggled in those positions, and Montgomery moved back to center after two more games at guard, while rookie Maurice Hurt took over at left guard. Hurt had his share of ups and downs but started the final eight games of the season.
Lichtensteiger is expected to be back on the field by the start of training camp, but Shanahan believes that LeRibeus can bring depth and stability to the Redskins’ line if injuries strike again.
“It’s hard to find a guy who can do both,” Shanahan said. “What I mean by that, some times you find a guy that’s a Pro Bowl center, and you move him to guard, and he can’t play. And a lot of guards, they can’t play center. They don’t have the quickness. He’s got both and that’s one of the reasons why we had him targeted early.”
Other notes fromthis weekend’s minicamp and Brian Orakpo’s Leukemia Golf Classic Monday:
• Orakpo said he is 100 percent healthy after surgery to repair a partially torn pectoral muscle right after the end of the season.
• With every member of the team’s front seven back following the re-signings of London Fletcher and Adam Carriker, Orakpo said he expects the Redskins’ defense to take another step forward in its third season in the 3-4 scheme.
• Shanahan said the Redskins haven’t had to work on Robert Griffin III’s mechanics and said he handled the team’s drills with ease.
• Undrafted rookie Chase Minnifield had a solid showing over the three days at Redskins Park, and said he feels “close to 100 percent” in his recovery from January microfracture surgery. The two-time All-ACC cornerback was held out of some drills as a precaution. Shanahan said Minnifield, who was signed shortly after the draft, has a chance to compete with the Redskins’ veterans for a spot on the 53-man roster.
• Second-year receiver Aldrick Robinson said he was able to play much faster in this year’s minicamp a year after learning on the fly as a practice-squad member last season. Shanahan noted that Robinson looks more comfortable and could be an option at slot receiver.
• Shanahan said the team already is getting good use of its practice bubble. The Redskins have used the bubble seven days during their offseason conditioning program and used it on one day during the rookie minicamp.