The Washington Redskins entered the 2012 draft with two major priorities: finding a franchise quarterback, and upgrading the offensive line depth.
The Redskins used the second overall pick of the draft on Robert Griffin III, who went on to win rookie of the year honors. His struggles this season in his return from a second knee reconstruction have been well documented, but he still appears to possess the potential to become a quality NFL quarterback.
Washington then spent a third-round pick on guard/center Josh LeRibeus, a fifth-round pick on guard Adam Gettis and a sixth-rounder on tackle Tom Compton. But many questions remain regarding that trio.
Struggles by Washington’s interior linemen (left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, center Will Montgomery and right guard Chris Chester) and right tackle Tyler Polumbus have sparked speculation that the Redskins could look to upgrade all four positions this offseason.
Whether the three draft picks are part of the solution, however, remains to be seen.
Compton, a 6-foot-5, 308-pounder out of South Dakota, spent much of last year on the practice squad while improving his strength and adjusting to the speed of the NFL. This season he made the 53-man roster as the third tackle and backup to both Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and Polumbus. In recent weeks, the Redskins have started using Compton as a blocking tight end in goal-line packages.
Gettis, a 6-2, 292-pound Iowa product, appeared in nine games on special teams last season and has continued to do so this season. He would take the place of either Lichtensteiger or Chester if either got hurt in a game.
“Tom Compton has really developed well this offseason, had a great training camp to make the team, and has continued to work during the season,” offensive line coach Chris Foerster said this week. “He’s working as a swing tackle and he’s doing an excellent job with that. . . . He’s working his butt off every day at both right and left tackle in practice, going against [Brian] Orakpo and [Ryan] Kerrigan every day. And then, working with our first group because he’s the next guy up every week. He’s doing an excellent job.
“Adam Gettis, the same way. He came in at camp did excellent, working at both guards. . . . They’re both primed and ready to go. They’re the ones that are active each week. They’re in position, and they’re prepared, and I think we’d be ready to go with them.”
Said Compton: “I prepare every week like I’m starting. I wish the best for the guys and hope nothing happens, but I’m prepared for whatever comes. I’m ready. Absolutely.”
It’s a different story when it comes to LeRibeus, however. As the 71st pick in 2012, LeRibeus became the highest-drafted interior lineman selected by the Redskins since the team took Tre Johnson 31st overall in 1994, and the highest drafted guard by Mike Shanahan since 1999 when his Broncos selected Duke’s Lennie Friedman 61st overall.
LeRibeus watched from the sidelines for much of last season but replaced an injured Lichtensteiger in Washington’s playoff loss to Seattle last January, and his performance left his coaches optimistic about his future.
But the 6-3 LeRibeus reported for offseason workouts out of shape and roughly 30 to 40 pounds over his playing weight of 315. As, as a result, he missed all of those practices working with trainers on the side, trying to improve his conditioning. He got off to a slow start in training camp and has spent much of the year playing catch-up.
LeRibeus’s regression over the offseason threw a wrench in the Redskins’ plans, Foerster said.
“We would’ve had between Kory, Will, Chris, Adam, Josh, a nice competition to see who could’ve been the center, who would’ve been the guards,” said Foerster, who believed that LeRibeus would have had a legitimate chance to start in his second season. “Now, the returners — the starters — could’ve had a leg up. But when Josh set himself back in the offseason, it really wasn’t that opportunity.”
Now 12 games in, LeRibeus has yet to dress on game day, let alone get on the field, and based on Shanahan’s stance in the past two weeks, unless there is an injury to one of the starters, LeRibeus’ situation seems unlikely to change. The coach is adamant that he will not go young just to evaluate players for the future.
Along the same lines, it seems unlikely that Compton or Gettis would begin playing over one of the veterans, either. But Shanahan said the opportunity remains for players to prove themselves — particularly while running the scout team offense during game simulations in Wednesday and Thursday practices.
The coming offseason carries great importance for all three players’ futures, but LeRibeus in particular.
“I shot myself in the foot this year,” he said. “But I’ve just got to recover and take it to heart this offseason and know that I might not get another chance. They give you one, but they might not give me another one. I definitely feel like I’ve gotten better. It’s just keeping the weight under control.”
All three players believe they can challenge for starting jobs next season. Although that’s possible, Foerster cautions growing pains still remain once they do get into games.
“All three have developed to a point where you could feel good about them going forward,” Foerster said. “The problem now is we’re at the point where their next step. . . . You can only get so good in practice. You eventually need to go out there and block the guys from Dallas. You need to do it. You need to fail, you need to succeed.”