Offensive Line An Early Question Mark
Last year the Redskins offensive line benefited by it’s starters making 79 out of a possible 80 starts. While a few other snaps were missed here or there, the Redskins were about as healthy as you could expect from an offensive line. While their line as a whole wasn’t top tier, and maybe not even 2nd tier, it played better than expected and did enough (or more accurately didn’t cost the Redskins) to help the Redskins win the division. The Redskins hoped that further continuity would help this unit rise even higher as they re-signed starting LG Kory Lichtensteiger and RT Tyler Polumbus. The Redskins didn’t really make any upgrades to this unit, with really only a lateral move in replacing veteran tackle Jordan Black with veteran tackle Tony Pashos. The other nine guys who finished the year on the roster, Trent Williams, Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Polumbus, Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt, Adam Gettis and Tom Compton all returned. LeRibeus, Hurt, Gettis and Compton were all drafted in the past two years and were expected to compete with Pashos (assuming he didn’t overtake the RT job), Jeremy Trueblood, Kevin Matthews, Tevita Stevens and Xavier Nixon, for the four to five back-up spots.
With so many returners the Redskins were probably expecting to exceed their line production last season and have at least decent depth. Now less than two weeks into training camp that no longer seems to be the case. Far too many question marks have popped up do to injuries or reports of ineffectiveness.
On the injury front, the biggest news is the health of star LT Trent Williams. Williams hurt his wrist the other day in camp, and while he and the team are downplaying it, the injury bears watching. He had wrist issues going back to last season, and while he’s not expected to miss time, he’s likely going to need to play the year in a cast. That will make it harder for him to do his job, and will impact his effectiveness. Though it might just be a slight decrease in play, any loss of production from their top offensive lineman hurts.
In addition to Williams, the Redskins are banged up on the interior of their offensive line. Maurice Hurt remains on the PUP list after an arthroscopic knee surgery in May and there is no timetable yet for his return. Hurt was expected to be the utility offensive lineman, backing up both guard spots and the right tackle spot. Gettis was a guy who was expected to really grow in his second year, but has missed a number of practices now due to a hamstring issue. Undrafted rookie Tevita Stevens is a longshot for a roster spot, but could be in the mix for a practice squad spot. Stevens though injured his ankle the other day and was wearing a walking boot on Saturday.
In terms of ineffectiveness the Redskins have a number of linemen who are under-performing thus far. Starters Kory Lichtensteiger and Tyler Polumbus, who were the two weak links on this line a year ago, continue to have mixed results in camp.
Back-up right tackle Tony Pashos could be pushing Polumbus for a job, but his play is roughly equivalent to Polumbus. Some back-ups though are really struggling and don’t seem to be threats to overtake any starting jobs. Second year guard Josh LeRibeus continues to struggle against even 2nd and 3rd team defensive linemen. With Hurt out, he was in prime position to be the top back-up interior offensive linemen. Tom Compton received a good bit of hype heading into camp as a guy to watch this year. So far the team has kept him exclusively at LT, basically taking him out of the competition at RT. Compton has also shown himself to be overwhelmed particularly in pass blocking, which is a concern along the blindside. Though he still could be in the mix for a roster spot, there are some serious questions there about how effective he would be if called upon. Veteran Jeremy Trueblood has started 84 career games, but he’s been struggling mightily as the third team right tackle. While he’s a long shot to make the team, the Redskins were hoping for more from him this year.
It’s still a long way to the season, and it is possible that many of these injured players are healthier by the time the season starts and some of the guys struggling will improve, but there is some cause for concern. With so many guys dealing with injuries and ineffectiveness, it is likely that some of these issues will carry over to the season. Obviously the Trent Williams injury has the greatest chance of effecting the Redskins, but the depth issue is something to really watch. The Redskins in many ways were lucky last year to miss only one start among their offensive linemen. They can’t count on that level of health this season, so it is likely that they will need 5 or more combined starts by their 2nd unit.