NFL Nation: Chris Foerster

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The problems didn’t always stem from their play. They had their issues, but not all of the protection breakdowns resulted from their protection. That didn’t mean the Washington Redskins were satisfied with their offensive line. At the scouting combine, Redskins coach Jay Gruden mentioned the linemen getting pushed back on occasion. And in free agency two of the team's bigger moves involved the line: The signing of Shawn Lauvao and the release of center Will Montgomery.

The Redskins have also brought in several offensive linemen for visits (tackle Bruce Campbell, who agreed to a deal but never signed, remains a possibility, but would be a depth guy not a potential starter). There is still a good chance they will draft a right tackle as well.

Here are some things we picked up from Gruden during his hour-long breakfast at the owners’ meetings:
  1. Lauvao
    Lauvao will first get a shot at left guard, with Chris Chester staying at right guard and Kory Lichtensteiger sliding to center. Of course, perhaps one of the young guards could beat out a veteran, but you don’t sign Lauvao and expect him to do anything but start. Gruden never mentioned Josh LeRibeus, but it’s a bad sign for him that they signed Lauvao. A former third-round pick entering his third year should be ready to start. Safe to say Gruden isn’t impressed or else there would be no need to bring in someone else.
  2. Gruden said he likes Lauvao’s attitude: “He’s a very tough player. He can get to the second level like you’d like, but he’s a stronger type lineman. ... He played next to a great center [in Cleveland] and they did some great things. But Shawn brings an attitude. He likes to get down and dirty, and that’s what you’d like your offensive linemen to be like.”
  3. Gruden said he’s relying on line coach Chris Foerster’s recommendation that Lichtensteiger can be a good center. “I have faith in his assessment,” Gruden said. “We’re hoping he can make that transition. He’s a great athlete. We think he can be a natural center, with the types of moves he has. It’s a matter of seeing him and make sure those shotgun snaps are consistent any time. A lot of guys project to center because they have great movement, but if you can’t shotgun snap, it’s hard to play center. But hopefully, [at] training camp and OTAs we’ll get a great look and he’ll be able to do that. I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”
  4. One reason the Redskins abandoned LeRibeus at center? Inability to shotgun snap. And if the Redskins use a lot of pistol, the center has to not only shotgun snap, but instantly come off the ball. Usually a shotgun snap with no pistol has the linemen in pass protection. There is an adjustment.
  5. Britt
    Williams
    Gruden had this to say about the line getting pushed back (which he mentioned at the combine): “Everybody talks about our line getting pushed back a little bit, and it could be true. Most of them do get pushed back on third-and-12. We’ve got to do a better job on first-and-10, second-and-8, or second-and-7. I think the style of running attack that Chris Foerster has incorporated here is a solid, sound attack. It’s something we want to continue doing.”
  6. Gruden talked about this when asked about wanting to get bigger up front: “I don’t think there’s a reason why you can’t get a little bit bigger and still do the same thing. I think that’s more of our thing: try to get a little bit bigger. Some of these big guys are athletic. Trent Williams is the most athletic guy on our team, probably. But those big, huge, athletic guys are hard to find. But we’re going to keep trying."
  7. Finally, right tackle. Tyler Polumbus has the job for now, but it did not seem like the Redskins had abandoned any desire to find more competition. But Gruden didn’t have a sense of urgency here, either: “When you’re 3-13, you’re really not happy at any position. Right tackle is one that lot of people point at that needs improvement. But when I watch him play, I thought he did a pretty good job. We have some depth there also, and some guys that can come in and compete that are on our roster. Obviously, you’d like to have Pro Bowlers across the land, but I think for how we play, he’s pretty solid.”

ASHBURN, Va. -- Jay Gruden's familiarity with several coaches on the Washington Redskins' staff helped make the job attractive. But, while it's likely that his future coordinators already are in the building, he's still going to interview other coaches for those positions.

The leading candidates to be the coordinators are thought to be Sean McVay (offense) and Jim Haslett (defense). Both are holdovers from the previous regime -- and both have ties to Gruden, having coached with him in the United Football League. Gruden said later Thursday that he greatly respects both. Because Gruden said he will call plays, it would be a surprise if McVay, who turns 28 later this month, wasn't elevated from tight ends coach. Also, Gruden said he wants to stick with a 3-4 defense, which Haslett has coached for four seasons here and two others in Pittsburgh.

But he also wasn't ready to name his coordinators just yet.

“We'll go through the process,” Gruden said. “There are a lot of great coaches out there.”

The Redskins also retained secondary coach Raheem Morris, who worked with Gruden in Tampa Bay for four seasons. But Morris fired Gruden when he took over as head coach in 2009, though it would still be a surprise if he wasn't retained considering he's well-liked by general manager Bruce Allen. Washington also has holdovers in running-backs coach Bobby Turner, offensive-line coach Chris Foerster, defensive-line coach Jacob Burney and assistant special-teams coach Richard Hightower.

“I will interview a lot of coaches,” Gruden said. “I'll look at each coach that has been retained by Bruce [Allen] and interview everybody. I know a lot of coaches here that can coach. There are also good football people across the country looking to work and work for the Redskins. I've had 350 texts from great coaches looking to coach. I don't think finding a great coach and coaching staff will be difficult as it will be finding the right ones.”

It helps the Redskins that only two other teams have filled their coaching vacancies and four others remain.

“The good part about getting our coach now is, his phone is blowing up with people ready to coach who are available now,” Allen said.

Connecting the dots in free agency

March, 8, 2010
3/08/10
3:13
PM ET

The moves teams make in free agency can be predictable based on personal connections.

  • The Cardinals hired Donnie Henderson to coach their secondary. When Antrel Rolle signed with the Giants, the Cardinals quickly acquired Kerry Rhodes from the Jets. Who was the Jets' defensive coordinator when the team drafted Rhodes in 2005? Henderson.
  • The Rams hired Pat Shurmur as their offensive coordinator before last season. When the Rams sought a veteran quarterback this offseason, the team signed A.J. Feeley. Who was the Eagles' quarterbacks coach when Feeley was a backup in Philadelphia? Shurmur.
  • The 49ers watched free agent Arnaz Battle leave in recent days. Battle joined recently fired 49ers special-teams coach Al Everest with the Steelers.
  • The Seahawks spent Saturday visiting with Broncos restricted free agent Brandon Marshall. Their new offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates, coached Marshall previously in Denver.

So many of these moves are somewhat predictable if we pay close enough attention to the connections. St. Louis made another reconnection Monday when they signed defensive tackle Fred Robbins, who played for Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo when both were with the Giants. The Cardinals reportedly have interest in linebackers Joey Porter and Larry Foote, who played for the Steelers when Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt was a coach for Pittsburgh. On and on it goes.

It makes sense for teams to seek players they know will fit their systems. I also think teams can value familiarity too much. Sometimes it's easier for a coach to plug in a known part than to put in the work needed to develop a younger or more talented player.


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jim Haslett has a plan to fix the Rams in one offseason, but it's unclear whether the team will indulge him.

Also from Thomas: A scouting report giving the Rams an edge over Seattle when St. Louis passes the ball.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Haslett is the right man for the job, even though he might not be a popular choice. Burwell blames executive John Shaw for getting the Rams into their current mess, one reason he thinks Shaw should have no input in naming the next head coach.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Seattle players complaining about Richie Incognito's allegedly dirty tactics.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat quotes Rams cornerback Ron Bartell as saying he wouldn't buy a ticket to the Seahawks-Rams game.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have avoided serious injuries, one reason the team was able to clinch the NFC West title so early.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals want the third seed in the NFC playoff race. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "History dictates the higher seeds have a better chance in the playoffs." Except for the time Whisenhunt and the sixth-seeded Steelers won the Super Bowl.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com quotes Kurt Warner as saying the Cardinals can't be content winning a division title. Warner: "It will take some time to convince guys who haven't been here before that this isn't the pinnacle."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at how the 49ers plan to block Dolphins pass-rusher Joey Porter. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster: "Hopefully, we can win our share of one-on-ones and get help when we need it."

Also from Crumpacker: A look at key matchups, including the one between the 49ers' Justin Smith and the Dolphins' Jake Long.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the Dolphins' defense might be most vulnerable through the air. That was certainly the case when Miami faced the Cardinals in Week 2.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says running back DeShaun Foster is unusually fresh for this late in the season. He'll finally get extensive work now that Frank Gore is injured.

Also from Brown: Niners linebacker Patrick Willis appreciates the team's new approach to offense. San Francisco possessed the ball for nearly 40 minutes against the Jets in Week 14.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are in no rush to hire Mike Singletary as coach beyond this season, in part because rules prevent them from doing so.

Also from Barrows: A scouting report noting that the Dolphins lead the NFL in turnover differential, having surrendered only four fumbles and six interceptions.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks hope to beat the Rams for an eighth consecutive time. The Rams blitzed Seattle frequently when the teams met previously this season.

Also from Romero: A scouting report suggesting Seattle should be able to end its six-game losing streak. Deion Branch, coming off a breakout game against New England, had five catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in the Edward Jones Dome last season.

Doug Farrar of Field Gulls takes an initial look at Sean Locklear's prognosis at left tackle. The final three games give Locklear a chance to show whether he can play effectively on that side.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' patchwork offensive line is looking for another better-than-expected performance. Floyd Womack has played particularly well.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Tom Robinson of the Virginian-Pilot names Kurt Warner his MVP on offense so far this season: "You wouldn't have thought this. Heck, Warner's not even supposed to be starting, but that bust Matt Leinart couldn't hold the job Arizona's trying to hand him. Enter Warner, who at 37 is pretty much channeling the player he was at 30, when he won the second of his two MVP awards and his St. Louis Rams went to the Super Bowl." For the record, Leinart has started 16 regular-season games. He is 25 years old. He might qualify as a bust so far, but he still has time to change the perception.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune expects Anquan Boldin to play against the Panthers in Week 8.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who is saying all the right things after ownership fired head coach Mike Nolan. Frank Gore hits on a familiar theme, saying Martz is doing an outstanding job and the offense is much better prepared this season.

Also from Maiocco: Mike Singletary put his career on hold for his family.

Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster, whose role increased following George Warhop's firing.

John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are going to great lengths to keep alive a home sellout streak dating to 1981.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle highlights Rocky Bernard's role in the decline of the 49ers. Bernard, the Seahawks' defensive tackle, knocked out 49ers quarterback Alex Smith last season.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer quotes Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren as saying Seneca Wallace threw the ball better in practice this week.

Also from Farnsworth: Seattle coaches have gone back to basics in preparation for the 49ers.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Steven Jackson's chances of playing for the Rams at New England. Coach Jim Haslett was noncommittal.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams' defense holds the key to the game against the Patriots. He points to seven sacks and seven takeaways during the Rams' two-game winning streak.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com looks at Haslett's impact on the Rams so far, noting that Haslett had success in New Orleans despite difficult circumstances.

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