Friday, June 8, 2012
Position series: Redskins offensive line
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
Picking up our occasional series looking at each of the NFC East's four teams on a position-by-position basis, today we will examine the offensive lines. They all come with questions this year, and we'll start with the one that may have the most -- that of the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins drafted a couple of offensive linemen, including Josh LeRibeus, right, who they feel will thrive in the team's zone blocking scheme.
Potential strength: The Redskins believe the strength of their offensive line is in the scheme -- specifically the zone-blocking run game. Mike Shanahan tells them stories of Terrell Davis glory days and all of the running backs who had success with him in Denver and convinces his linemen that they can make stars of their backs if they learn the scheme and stick to it. For that reason, they look for specific kinds of linemen who can do what they do in the run game. The third-round pick of LeRibeus and the fifth-round pick of Gettis stand as examples of that -- the Redskins targeting specific players because they believe they could fit the zone-blocking scheme -- and for that reason don't be surprised if one (or even both) of them works his way into the starting mix before long.
Potential weakness: The problem last year was a lack of depth behind the starters. The line was playing well during the 3-1 start, but injuries to Williams and Lichtensteiger, along with the ongoing hip issues that limited Brown all year, left them exposed. I believe this remains a weakness, especially with Lichtensteiger and Brown continuing to carry injury questions. Yes, they added pieces in the draft, but they can't be sure either of those aforementioned guys is going to be ready soon. And although Lee comes with something of a résumé as a potentially solid backup, a major injury to a starter could force someone from the Smith/Polumbus/Hurt group to show more than they showed last year when thrust into a replacement role. I'm also not sure Montgomery is the long-term solution at center, and if they do develop someone at that spot this year or in the future, they could move him to one of the guard spots. That would help the depth.
Keep an eye on: Williams. He's the most important part of this whole mix -- the franchise left tackle and former No. 4 overall pick in the draft. He missed the final four games of 2011 due to a drug suspension, so all eyes are going to be on him to make sure he stays clean, first of all. And assuming he's on the field for 16 games, he needs to find a way to make them 16 consistently good games. Redskins coaches have no problem telling you that, while they've seen the flashes of brilliance from Williams, the important thing is for him to bring that brilliance consistently. They believed he was making strides in that area last year before the suspension, and if he emerges as a top tackle this year, that will go a long way toward helping this line be a helpful unit.