Thursday, March 20, 2014
Quick takes: Offensive line
By John Keim
Because I'm thinking too much about the offensive line and what the Washington Redskins are doing:
At coach Jay Gruden’s introductory news conference, he talked about wanting to have versatility and variety in the offense. So he wanted to use the zone read (some) and he wanted to run power. Here’s what he said:
“I like the power plays. I like the gap-blocking plays. So there’s a little bit of everything. I don’t think any offense in the NFL anymore is just, ‘We are this.’ I think we have to adhere to what we have offensively, talent-wise. We can do the read-option. We can do naked bootlegs. We can run outside zone. We can run bubble screens. We can run deep balls. We can do play-action deep things. I think the whole idea to be a successful offense is to be diverse and be good at a lot of different things and not just one.”
So it’s no surprise that when looking at offensive linemen in free agency, he’s opted for players with a little more size. That doesn’t mean the Redskins will abandon what they had done in the past. This offseason, offensive coordinator Sean McVay said, “The run game will be very similar." But it does mean that they want players who can perhaps be capable of doing more.
They hosted two linemen Wednesday: former Saints center Brian de la Puente and ex-Colts guard/center Mike McGlynn. De La Puente weighs 306 pounds (former center Will Montgomery weighs 304; Kory Lichtensteiger, who will move to center, weighs between 280-285 but is adding 10-15 pounds in the offseason. I'm anxious to see Lichtensteiger at center; I've long thought that would be his future home and agree with Chris Cooley that he would be good here).
McGlynn weighs 325 pounds. The problem here: he struggled big time at guard by all accounts last season. As much as everyone wants to hammer the Redskins’ offensive line, few were worse than Indianapolis’ -- especially in the interior. Where McGlynn started. But he started three games at center and, again, according to those who watched the team on a daily basis, he fared much better.
Here’s what ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells wrote about McGlynn: “McGlynn was in a tough position last season. He started 11 games at guard but he’s weak at that position and was part of one of the worst interior offensive lines in the league with center Samson Satele and guard Hugh Thornton. ... Slide McGlynn to center, which happened three times because of injuries to Satele, and all is better for him because he plays the position better than Satele. ... Colts coach Chuck Pagano had an opportunity to keep McGlynn at center and bench Satele in the playoffs but he decided against it.”
And here’s what Stephen Holder, a Colts’ beat reporter for the Indianapolis Star, wrote about McGlynn: “McGlynn was not a strong performer when used at guard this season, but he and the line overall played better when he was the starting center (he started three games). If the Colts offer a contract to McGlynn, expect it to be modest in value and look for McGlynn to have to compete for playing time and/or a roster spot.”
[New: One scout texted me Thursday and said McGlynn was a "bad athlete" and therefore limited in pass protection; probably better suited for a man-power blocking scheme.]
De la Puente did not exactly play with a lot of power in New Orleans. I saw him get moved back in a couple games, but I also saw him be effective when on the move -- whether to block a linebacker or maintain leverage on a defensive lineman.
I think he was helped playing with Saints quarterback Drew Brees; the bulk of his throws (54 percent) were unloaded in less than three seconds. Robert Griffin III unloaded in that amount of time 45 percent of the time (according to ESPN Stats & Information).
But the point is it’s not as if De la Puente would be a bad fit for some sort of outside zone-based scheme (if they sign him, that is). Actually, he's probably a good fit. Nor would his signing signal some shift to a strictly power-based run game. It does sound as if he was a smart center with the Saints, so that would be good.
Newly-signed guard Shawn Lauvao weighs 315 pounds, about the same size as Chris Chester (Josh LeRibeus is bigger, though his listed weight was 315 pounds last season). So if Lauvao and Chris Chester are the guards (not sure yet if that will be the case; if they sign someone else, then I’d imagine a current Redskins linemen could get released and Chester represents $2.7 million in cap savings) then that would give them a bigger tandem than the past couple years. But both are capable of running outside zone plays -- word out of Cleveland is that this style would fit Lauvao. And Chester is not a power blocker.
Point is, the Redskins still don't look like they're abandoning what they have done in recent years with the run game. But that doesn't mean it will look exactly the same, and other aspects will be emphasized because Gruden will want to incorporate some of his style. It is his offense after all. Some of the changes they're making, or trying to make, are as much about performance as scheme.