Geron Christian seemed like a luxury pick when the Washington Redskins drafted the Louisville offensive lineman in April. The organization has two of the better tackles in the NFL, and neither is going anywhere soon.
The third seemed like a round more suited for selecting someone who could make an impact sooner than later. But Christian has been the first-team left tackle throughout summer workouts; starters Trent Williams and Morgan Moses and backups Ty Nsekhe and T.J. Clemmings were rehabbing injuries during organized team activities and mandatory minicamp.
Their absence gave Christian valuable experience, and the Redskins signed him Thursday, meaning they now have their entire draft class under contract. Details of the deal were not immediately available.
“It’s been a new world for him, I’m quite certain,” offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. “But the reps that he’s taking are quality reps with first stringers. To have Shawn Lauvao out there and Chase [Roullier] communicating and kind of responding to all those calls was a good thing. And all the technique stuff he went through, he really benefited a great deal from all of it. He got thrown into the fire, and he’s handled it really well. It’s a learning curve right now for a rookie. He’s got to make that progress in the next couple weeks and in the summer and carry it over to training camp.”
The opportunity is likely coming to an end now that the team is off until training camp begins July 26 in Richmond. Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, said Wednesday that he’ll be ready before camp, and Coach Jay Gruden said the other tackles should be, too. The team may limit their activity, but the line for reps will be much more crowded when the team gets back together.
Christian was trying to take advantage of the extra snaps while he could. Learning new blocking techniques was a bigger challenge than grasping the offensive scheme, he said.
“I know a lot of people don’t really get the opportunity to just go in and play and get a lot of reps and stuff,” Christian said. “So I’ve appreciated it. And trying to just use every opportunity I get, really. … It’s a lot going on, but it’s been good. The technique that I use here and the technique that I used in college is completely different. … I feel like I’ve done pretty good as far as learning the offense.”
The technique adjustments have come in both run and pass schemes. The Redskins want him to be more aggressive, shoot his hands sooner and stay square in a different way than he did at Louisville. The Cardinals’ offense was built around the playmaking ability of former Heisman Trophy winner (and the Baltimore Ravens’ No. 32 overall draft pick) Lamar Jackson, so the schematics are different with Washington.
The 6-foot-5, 302-pounder played 39 games at Louisville and started each one during his three seasons with the Cardinals. He was all-ACC each year.
“His strength has been pass protection,” Callahan said. “That was his strength when he came out. He has position flexibility where he can play right [tackle], he can play left. He’s really athletic, and he’s just starting to learn the ropes. So this is all new to him. The more reps he gets and the more looks that he can filter through is just going to benefit him better.”
Christian believes his run blocking skills are underrated, masked in part by Louisville’s scheme.
“I feel like I’m a pretty good run blocker,” Christian said. “In the scheme that I was in, with Lamar [being] so mobile, in college we saw a lot of stunts and blitzes. So, it was just like, you can’t just come off and smash somebody because there were so many line games.”
Christian is expected to be a third-string swing tackle when the season begins, but recent injury history indicates things can change quickly. Additionally, Nsekhe and Clemmings are set to be unrestricted free agents in 2019.
“It’s not easy for a young guy like that to come in here and play tackle for us with the [starters] from the get-go,” Gruden said. “[Defensive coordinator Greg] Manusky does a good job of throwing a lot of different fronts and looks at them. He’s learning on the fly. Coach Callahan has taken him under his wing and really worked with him, and this experience has been invaluable for him. To me, it’s so much better to get an opportunity and go out on the field and actually practice than stand there with a helmet in your hand and watch. So you can make the mistakes, you can correct yourself. … Every play is something to learn from — running play, pass play, pass protection — and I think he’s going to become better faster because of that because of these opportunities.”
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