As newly acquired guard Chris Chester finished his first news conference as a Washington Redskin on Friday morning, teammate Jammal Brown’s voice boomed from near the entrance to the team facility a few feet away.
“SOONER!” Chester shouted back, his voice overlapping that of Washington’s 2010 first-round pick, Trent Williams, who also joined in on the University of Oklahoma football chorus.
While Chester may be transitioning into a new system since joining the Redskins in free agency from the Baltimore Ravens, he has plenty of familiar faces around to help him settle.
Offensive linemates Brown and Williams, like Chester, are Oklahoma products. Other teammates, including quarterback John Beck and wide receiver Donte Stallworth, spent time in Baltimore. Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster spent 2005 through 2007 with the Ravens in the same role.
“That made it a no-brainer to come here,” Chester said.
The sixth-year veteran is expected to plug into the starting right guard role this season to help upgrade an offensive line that struggled last season, both in performing and in maintaining a consistent lineup.
The Redskins used six different offensive line combinations during last season, ranked 30th in rushing (91.3 yards per game) and gave up 46 sacks, fifth highest in the NFL.
Chester played in 46 of 48 games for the Ravens over the past three seasons, starting 38.
“You had to project a little bit because Baltimore’s offense is more power-oriented,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said, when asked what the team saw in Chester. “He ran a 4.75 coming out of college, so I loved his speed. We had to project him into our scheme. For the first two days, I’ve been very impressed with how he’s practiced and with what he adds to our offensive team.”
A free agent signing, Chester was among the players that had to sit out the first five days of training camp while waiting for the CBA to be ratified by the players.
Chester said he spent much of that time taking mental repetitions and learning the scheme, and said despite the time off he feels ready to play in the Redskins preseason opener Aug. 12.
Though Chester played in a different scheme with Baltimore, he said transitioning to the Redskins’ zone-based offensive line has not been a major issue. A former tight end, Chester believes the scheme “probably suits me a lot better in the long run because you really get to utilize athleticism and try to get guys going and running and stuff.”
He had experience with cut blocking in college, he said, and has experience playing in variations of a zone blocking schemes.
“I wouldn’t say I’m having trouble with it; more than anything, I’m just learning terminology and different calls and different things from the system I was in,” Chester said. “Overall I think every NFL offense has some sort of zone; it’s just this offense takes it a little bit wider in the course.”