As they look to help Robert Griffin III recapture the magic from his rookie season and develop into more of a complete/effective quarterback, the Washington Redskins must devote a significant amount of attention and efforts to improving the offensive line.
Washington has a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle in Trent Williams, and that’s a crucial piece to the puzzle. But the line needs some work otherwise.
Jay Gruden elected to stick with offensive line coach Chris Foerster, which should ensure some continuity. Foerster has coached in a number of different offensive schemes in his 21 years as an NFL coach (seven teams total). But because of the success they have had running the ball the last two years, Redskins officials and coaches don’t plan to change much philosophy- and scheme-wise.
But Washington’s decision-makers know they have to get better up front.
All five starters and three backups from last season remain under contract. (Only late-season addition J.D. Walton, a center and Robert Griffin III’s former Baylor teammate, is up for free agency.) But we could still see some shuffling and comings and goings.
Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is a smaller lineman. He’s listed at 6 feet 2 and 284 pounds. But he has been one of Washington’s better run blockers. He might actually be a more natural center. Coming out of college, he was rated as one of the top centers in the draft. He wound up shifting to guard for former Coach Mike Shanahan. But last offseason, the Redskins’ coaches entertained the idea of shifting Lichtensteiger back to center, where he would’ve competed with Will Montgomery for the job, and starting second-year pro Josh LeRibeus at left guard. But LeRibeus had a bad offseason, came into camp out of shape and never suited up for a single game in 2013.
It’s not out of the possibility that Lichtensteiger could receive consideration at center again. Part of that has to do with the fact that Montgomery had an inconsistent 2013 campaign. At times he appeared to get confused by defensive line stunts and missed assignments, struggled to pick up pass-rushers and hold blocks. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Redskins make a move here. Releasing Montgomery also would save the team just less than $2 million against the cap.
It’s unclear where Walton fits into things. The 6-3, 305-pounder started 36 games in Denver (all 16 both in 2010 and 2011 and the first four of 2012 before suffering an ankle injury that required multiple surgeries). The Redskins claimed him late in the year knowing his contract would expire this offseason. He was still working his way back into football shape at the time. Did team officials see enough to make a decision on him?
Right guard also requires some attention. Chris Chester had good 2011 and 2012 campaigns with Washington after spending the first five seasons of his career in Baltimore (the first two under Foerster, who had the same job there). Chester shared some of the same struggles as did Montgomery. He found himself out of position, he missed blocks and got knocked off the line at times. Coaches didn’t see LeRibeus or Adam Gettis (third-round pick and fifth-round pick, respectively, in 2012) as better options last season, however, and stuck with Chester through his shortcomings. It’ll be interesting to see if the Redskins think that Chester rebound, or if they opt to move on. Releasing him would save $2.7 million against the cap.
At right tackle, Tyler Polumbus displayed improvement from 2012 to 2013. He did a better job of compensating for mobility or quickness deficiencies against faster, more athletic pass-rushers. But an upgrade at this position is possible, too. The Redskins have spent the last two years developing Tom Compton, and he served as the backup swing tackle last season. He probably would compete for starting duties there this offseason, and it’s possible that he and Polumbus could trade roles. But it’s also possible that the Redskins could opt to release Polumbus (saving $2.5 million against the cap) and look for another right tackle in free agency.
This Redskins’ coaches and talent evaluators have spent this week further evaluating their own talent while studying the talent expected to hit the open market in free agency next month.
Some of the top free agent offensive linemen include Cleveland center Alex Mack, Green Bay center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who also can play guard, Kansas City’s Geoff Schwartz, Jets’ tackle Austin Howard, Titans’ tackle David Stewart, Atlanta tackle Mike Johnson and Bengals’ guard Mike Pollak.
We’ll soon see what kind of moves Washington makes to shore up the line.
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