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Something to prove: Josh LeRibeus

7/1/2014

We will be featuring a different Washington Redskins player each day on this list, staying away from rookies or some second-year players still finding their way. This will focus primarily on veterans at or near a career crossroads. Today: guard Josh LeRibeus.

Why he has something to prove: Because, well, he hasn’t done anything yet. And he’s now entering his third year. I did not want to focus on a player in his first or second year because they’re still finding their way and, of course, still have something to prove. But LeRibeus is entering his third and was inactive for every game last season. That’s a horrendous fact for a player who was once a third-round pick. When the Redskins made that selection it led some (perhaps many) to say they reached. The Redskins, naturally, insisted that wasn’t the case and that his weight issues from college had been solved. By the end of his rookie year he looked like a player who could challenge for more playing time, or even a starting job, in his second season. The coaches were pleased with his showing as a reserve in the playoff loss to Seattle (and they should have been; he played well for injured Kory Lichtensteiger). Then came the 2013 offseason. The worst part now for LeRibeus is that he not only has to prove he can play, but that he can be a professional. He showed up out of shape last offseason and it set him back an entire season. That was far different from this offseason when the coaches were pleased with his performance. Now that he has acted like a pro, the next step has to be challenging for a starting job. But they also drafted Spencer Long for a reason (and signed Shawn Lauvao); they don’t completely trust LeRibeus. Remember, the new head coach not only didn’t draft him, but he checked him out while in Cincinnati. I don’t think he would have drafted him. So LeRibeus has to prove something to him as much as anyone.

What he must do: Build on a good offseason. LeRibeus worked his way back into the coach’s good graces last season and, by the end, they felt he had returned to the same spot he was a year ago: a young guy improving. LeRibeus has to convince the coaches that this past offseason will become the rule and not the exception, though that’s impossible to do in just one year. But he’s a bigger body who moves pretty well, something the Redskins were looking to add -- not to become a straight-ahead smashmouth team but to run the outside zones even better. We haven’t seen LeRibeus play since last preseason when he did not look good at all, and, based on his offseason, if he’d been anything other than a higher pick he would have deserved to be released. But the coaches always go back to that Seattle game when he blocked well on the move as to his ability. If that’s the case then LeRibeus should be in the starting competition this summer.

Projection: He’ll challenge for the starting job held by Chris Chester. It’s hard to know where Long will be in this competition without ever having seen him block in an NFL game. But, by his third year, LeRibeus should be a strong, strong contender for the job. That is, if he was really a worthwhile selection and not just a reach. I just don’t trust him enough yet to say he’ll oust Chester, and I’m not sure the coaches do either. But it’ll be a good storyline to follow.