Chris Chester Under Pressure This Season
Chris Chester was brought in last season to help stabilize the offensive line and add a quality veteran presence. In many ways Chester did as he was asked. He was just one of two Redskins offensive linemen to play every single snap (Will Montgomery was the other), and he committed just one penalty all season. Chester also offered solid pass protection for much of the season. In one area though Chester left a lot to be desired, and this is as a run blocker. Chester struggled to effectively run the zone blocking scheme, showing poor lateral quickness and maintaining control of defenders. This led to quite a bit of penetration in the backfield, which doomed a number of running plays from the start. This is an area where Chester needs to show a lot of improvement, as he looks to show that he is worthy of the starting job and contract the Redskins gave him.
The Redskins entered the free agent market knowing that they would land their QB of the future in the draft, which left them to split their remaining resources between their two biggest offensive needs; the offensive line and the wide receivers. Despite there being multiple high level guards on the open market, the Redskins chose to spend their free agent dollars on weapons for their new quarterback. That didn’t mean Chester got a complete reprieve as the Redskins added three offensive linemen (Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Tom Compton) through the draft. Now they might not threaten his job from the get-go, especially with Kory Lichtensteiger returning from injury, but by next season that could be a different story. Unfortunately, Chester’s job won’t get any easier with a mobile rookie quarterback.
Two of hardest types of quarterbacks to block for are rookies and mobile quarterbacks. Rookie quarterbacks typically have very poor pocket presence and don’t realize how quickly NFL defenders can get to them. Mobile quarterbacks are just as bad, as they think they can always outrun the pass rush, as opposed to throwing it away. They will get away their fair share, but they will also take quite a few unnecessary sacks. For the offensive linemen, this means you are asked to hold your blocks longer. The linemen will also need to show better awareness as a play where Chester might ride the defensive tackle out of the play, he could unknowingly steer him right into the path of his scrambling quarterback.
A mobile rookie quarterback also presents additional problems for Chester. Typically teams like to take the pressure off a rookie quarterback, and do so by increasing their number of rushing attempts. Whereas Chester was asked to run block 40% of the time last year, he could be doing it 45% of the time or more. Having Chester run block more often could hurt the offense, unless he can significantly increase his performance in that area. Another concern, is that with Griffin being a rookie, the Redskins are expected to play to his strengths more and run more rollouts, bootlegs and other passing plays where the line is asked to block on the move. While that might be the best thing for Griffin, Chester struggled when asked to block on the move last season. If he continues to struggle in this area, it could turn his solid pass blocking into a liability.
As if things weren’t bad enough for Chester to worry about this season, he’s expected to play next to Jammal Brown again this year. Now it could be just a coincidence, but many of Chester’s most productive games (according to other sources like PFF and beat reporters as well) were when Brown was on the sideline. Now I wouldn’t say there is a great correlation, but there is at least some minor impact on Chester’s performance by having Brown next to him. Of course if Brown weren’t to play, things exactly wouldn’t improve a great deal for Chester as his replacement would be one of the following: Tyler Polumbus, a journey man player who shouldn’t be starting, Willie Smith, a 2nd year UDFA tackle who got overwhelmed filling in for Trent Williams last year, or Tom Compton a 6th round rookie.
Given the questions around him, Chester may face long odds to improve enough to justify his contract, but it should hardly be out of the realm of possibilities. Chester was considered to have solid all-around starting ability while with the Ravens (and at one time was a 2nd round pick). With a year in this system and hopefully working on his quickness and awareness, there is no excuse why Chester shouldn’t be better. Yes the offense might not play to his strengths and their might be a tougher assignment at quarterback to block for, but it is his job and the Redskins paid for him to be a quality starter, so that is what they should expect. This year will be key to determine whether or not the Redskins made a smart move signing him, or if he’ll end up being another failed free agent addition.