- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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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:
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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."
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.”