Top 5 Players On the Offensive Line That I’ll Be Watching Thursday:

NFL Washington Commanders

Yesterday I looked at the top 5 Offensive players that I’ll be watching when the Redskins open up their preseason Thursday night. Now I decided to focus on non-offensive linemen in that post since I felt the line deserved their own post. That fear feeling was further reinforced when starting RG Chris Chester went down with a mild ankle sprain in yesterday’s practice. Chester marks the third starting offensive lineman to go down with an injury. Joining Chester on the sidelines will be starting LG Kory Lichtensteiger and RT Jammal Brown. Fortunately for the Skins Chester isn’t expected to miss as much time as either Lichtensteiger or Brown, and should be fully healthy when the season starts. As for what linemen I’ll be focusing on this Thursday, here is my top 5:

1. Tyler Polumbus:

-Polumbus has taken Jammal Brown’s place at the top of the right tackle depth chart. While he came into camp as the Redskins best back-up lineman, and most experienced, he’s been just a journeyman player in his career. Though Brown didn’t exactly set the highwater mark for right tackles, he is probably better than Polumbus, and without a doubt him being injured puts serious concerns about the Redskins depth going forward. The long term prognosis on Brown isn’t known yet, but it doesn’t appear too promising as there isn’t even the beginning of timetable for his return. The Redskins need to start preparing for the possibility that Brown will miss the majority, if not entire season. They have to see if Polumbus can come close to handling the job, and this game is the first test. Despite it being preseason, Polumbus should be challenged. The Bills invested in adding a pass rush this offseason so Polumbus will face some competition.

2. Adam Gettis:

-I’ve been bullish on Adam Gettis since even before the Draft, but I had little expectation that he’d be counted on to play much as a rookie. With both starting guards out though, he’ll likely be starting Thursday night. Even if Chester returns for the season, Gettis could establish himself as a viable option for the other guard spot this year. Early reports on Gettis have been a bit of a mixed bag, especially when he’s gone up against starting caliber players. He’ll get tested by a strong Buffalo front 4. Though the starters are only expected to play 20 snaps at the most, I’m guessing Gettis gets extra work, so he’ll be an interesting guy to key on.

3. Josh LeRibeus:

-LeRibeus was actually drafted two rounds ahead of Gettis, but he’s not a guarantee to start at either of the guard spots this Thursday. Similar to Gettis his camp has been up and down, and he needs some good work in this preseason game to move up the depth chart. Even if LeRibeus does face back-ups only in this game, a lot can be learned from his performance. Particularly interesting will be to see if he does have a high success rate versus lower competition, if not it will be an uphill climb for him. Other things to watch will be his quickness off the snap, leverage and awareness, three areas that will be key for him to assume a starting job.

4. Willie Smith:

-Smith was a bit of a fan favorite after filling in for Trent Williams the final four games of the season last year. While he showed some promise, and was considered a solid raw prospect, he was very much over-matched last season (though he became over-hyped by fans). He was considered a guy to watch heading into this camp, and was considered a possible reason why the Redskins made little attempt to address the position in free agency or early in the draft. Smith obviously wasn’t a major factor in the Redskins decision making, as he broke camp working with the 4th team, behind Brown, Polumbus and Maurice Hurt. He’s now the 2nd string RT as Brown is injured and Hurt has moved back inside while Lichtensteiger recovers. He’s got a big opportunity to prove himself this Thursday, not only that he deserves a roster spot, but that he could enter the starting mix. Thus far the reports on him aren’t promising on either front, but he does deserve watching.

5. Maurice Hurt:

-Last year Kory Lichtensteiger’s injury brought Hurt up from the practice squad and quickly elevated him to the starting LG role. He was over-matched throughout the season, as you’d expect a 7th round rookie to be. Hurt was moved to tackle after the season, and the Redskins spent two draft picks on guards to try to improve their depth inside. Prior to Brown and Lichtensteiger’s injuries this training camp, I would have said that Hurt was a stretch to make the team, but now he’s slated to start at LG. I’m guessing the team is hoping either LeRibeus or Gettis would be ready to start if Lichtensteiger wasn’t ready for the season, but right now Hurt is the more advanced lineman. He’ll need to show that he can perform in the game and protect the Redskins rookie franchise quarterback.

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