Washington Redskins: Shawn Lauvao
Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.
Running backs (4)
The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.
I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.
Tight ends (3)
Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.
Offensive line (10)
- Trent Williams
- Shawn Lauvao
- Kory Lichtensteiger
- Chris Chester
- Tyler Polumbus
- Morgan Moses
- Spencer Long
- Josh LeRibeus
- Tom Compton
- Mike McGlynn
In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester (which I don't think will happen; I think he'll start). Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.
Defensive line (6)
This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger at some point. But he still helps in too many ways.
- Ryan Kerrigan
- Brian Orakpo
- Perry Riley
- Keenan Robinson
- Trent Murphy
- Darryl Sharpton
- Adam Hayward
- Brandon Jenkins
- Akeem Jordan
As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.
I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.
The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.
As he improved his tracks on runs, the Redskins’ run game flourished even more. Morris’ ability to plant and cut and make the first defender miss meant the run game would work even minus the zone read aspect.
Last season, the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in yards per rush (4.78). They averaged 5.33 yards on zone read carries and 4.65 on traditional runs; the latter number would have left them tied for third.
Here’s the point: The run game has worked the past two years, with or without the zone read option. That’s a big reason why offensive coordinator Sean McVay said shortly after getting his new position that “the run game will be very similar.”
Meanwhile, the two linemen they drafted, guard Spencer Long and tackle Morgan Moses, both can move. The problem for Moses is that in college he was inconsistent getting to linebackers in the run game. It’s yet another area he must improve before he’s truly ready to start. Long, nearly 10 pounds heavier than starting right guard Chris Chester, spent a lot of time pulling at Nebraska but he also plays with strength. The Redskins definitely left yards on the field in the run game last season, sometimes because the backside blockers failed to get their men and other times because Morris needed to make a stronger cut down the field.
On paper, bigger should also equal more ability to play smash mouth when needed, adding more versatility to the ground game. But I’m not sold that Lauvao, for example, is as strong in that sort of situation. That’s not what he showed in Cleveland (whether at the line or when reaching linebackers).
Meanwhile, the Redskins actually led the NFL in rushing versus seven-man fronts (275 times for an NFL-best 1,332 yards).
Perhaps Gruden’s influence will result in more carries against five- and six-man fronts. The Bengals had 51 more such plays than Washington a year ago, a function of formation and likely also game situations. Then again, two years ago the Redskins had more runs against those fronts than Cincinnati.
But with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and tight end Jordan Reed, Gruden has more weapons in the pass game as well. Which, of course, could lead to more spread formations -- and runs against even more favorable fronts.
The point? Helu will be able to handle the third-down duties again, but there’s little reason to take a whole lot away from Morris. And rookie Lache Seastrunk has a lot to prove -- as a third-down back in particular -- before being ready for anything other than pinch-hitting duty as a runner. But he’s a potentially good fit in the spread. Chris Thompson is, too, but size and durability remain two big issues for him.
Do not assume the Redskins will see fewer eight-man boxes compared to last season. In 2013, Morris only ran 44 times against an eight-man box, which was six fewer times than he did so as a rookie. So it’s not a given he’ll pile up more yards because of fewer eight-man boxes. But given the success of the past two years and that Gruden wants to keep it mostly the same, there’s also no reason to think Morris or the Redskins’ run game will suddenly drop off. That is, unless Gruden falls too much in love with the weapons at receiver.
Bronzed: Baylor announced plans to build a statue of quarterback Robert Griffin III at its new stadium when it opens in August. This had been in the works for a while – Griffin knew about the possibility during the season and, in fact, had photos taken of him for the project a year ago-- but the project was completed in May. The 9-foot statue will be unveiled before Baylor’s game against SMU on Aug. 31. Griffin is Baylor’s lone Heisman Trophy winner and obviously was given a lot of credit for Baylor’s rise. At some point the school will have to find a way to honor its coach, Art Briles (perhaps when he’s done there).
On second thought: Ben Tribbett, hired by the Redskins as a blogger to help in the name battle, announced his resignation via Twitter after only two weeks. Tribbett said on Twitter that, “I don’t want to be a distraction to the team as the political attacks have shifted towards being personal towards me.” He added in a separate tweet that he wanted the debate to be over the name and not over what anything he has said or done in the past. Tribbett, considered a liberal blogger, had been vocal in his support of the name in the past. But he’s also the one who wrote harshly about former Virginia Governor and Senator George Allen after he used the word “macacca” in a 2006 campaign. And Indian Country Today wrote about a few missteps by Tribbett in the past, including a tweet about an encounter at a casino. Tribbett tweeted, “Just took Chief for his last 300. I’d call it a scalping but that seems uncalled for.” Another move that backfired on the Redskins. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, their attempts to win the public over on the name front have not helped.
Obv. this issue with Redskins is one where I don't see eye to eye with some friends. I just don't agree with the attacks on the team name.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
I don't want to be a distraction to the team as the political attacks have shifted towards being personal towards me.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
So I'm going to send in my resignation to the Redskins. Hopefully that allows debate to move back to where it should be.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
American Muscle: Receiver Pierre Garcon and nose tackle Chris Neild both will appear on the Discovery Channel series "American Muscle" this summer (it debuts at 9 p.m. Wednesday). I’ll be talking to Mike Barwis, who worked with them on the show, Tuesday morning for a post later in the day. I'm curious to hear how this came about and what sort of work they did. Neild is on the bubble this camp while Garcon is coming off a record season. A key part of Garcon’s game is his ability to play physical. I’d say it’s underrated, but I don’t think that’s the case so I guess I won’t say that. But it does allow him to be effective on bubble screens and other short routes because he has an ability to break tackles. Among other players featured on the show: Seattle corner Richard Sherman.
Lauvao’s progress: Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said of new guard Shawn Lauvao last month: “He got better every day. It was all new to him. He needs to get out there and play. He’s more of a practice guy; he needs to be out there doing it. Trent [Williams] can make a lot of guys look good when they play next to him. He’s doing a good job with Shawn teaching him how to do things and [Lauvao] made huge strides from voluntary minicamp.”
Oops! A college student was asked his opinion on the Redskins name – and it turned out to be a break the police in another town needed. Jacob Close, 25, and a Bloomsburg (Pennsylvania) University student, was spotted by Ithaca, New York, police in the Bloomsburg Press Enterprise after his picture ran in conjunction with a story on the Redskins name. Turns out Close was wanted for jumping bail in a drug/DUI-related case, according to the Press Enterprise. The paper reported that campus police had been searching for him for more than a month after being contacted by Ithaca City Police in May. For what it’s worth, Close said the team should keep the nickname but change the mascot to a potato.
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.
Here is a look at their starting offensive unit after the offseason workouts (I'll look at the starting defense Thursday):
Quarterback: Robert Griffin III
Running back: Alfred Morris
Wide receiver: DeSean Jackson
Wide receiver: Pierre Garcon
Tight end: Jordan Reed
Tight end: Logan Paulsen
Left tackle: Trent Williams
Left guard: Shawn Lauvao
Center: Kory Lichtensteiger
Right guard: Chris Chester
Right tackle: Tyler Polumbus
Change from 2013: Lauvao and Jackson are the only new starters. Lichtensteiger shifted from left guard to center.
Note: I did not include a starting fullback because they will likely use two-tight-end sets more often, but obviously Darrel Young is their fullback. Last season in Cincinnati, then-offensive coordinator Gruden used two tight ends more than any other formation on first down (229 times; next highest was three receivers and one tight end at 112 times). Also last season, Cincinnati’s fullback played 63 snaps -- but received 206 snaps in 2012. Young is better than what the Bengals had, and his blocking was a key element in the Redskins’ run game, which will stay about the same. Still, I would not put him as a heavy participant and, therefore, not a starter. As for position battles, the one to watch for me is right guard. Also, I think Lichtensteiger is well suited for center, but if he struggles then Mike McGlynn has experience there as well -- and by all accounts performed much better at this position than at guard.
Spring standout: Jackson. When healthy, that is. But it was clear the sort of difference he could make because of his speed. The coaches definitely came away thinking he is for real, not that they were surprised considering his past.
Average age at start of camp: 27.09
Combined Pro Bowls: 7. Jackson (three), Williams (two), Morris (one), Griffin (one).
Starters 30 or older: 1 (Chester).
The Redskins hope he's back on the right path.
Foerster always references the Seattle playoff game after the 2012 season for LeRibeus because he replaced an injured Kory Lichtensteiger and played well. But then LeRibeus reported out of shape last offseason, by perhaps as much as 30 pounds, and injured his hamstring.
"He lost a year," Foerster said. "At the end of last year he was better, but he's come back in great shape with a great attitude."
The Redskins will have some tough decisions along the offensive line, though it will depend on how many linemen decide to keep. There have been years they kept only eight, but it would be hard to see them keeping fewer than nine and perhaps even 10.
They not only added two players in free agency (Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn), they also drafted two players (Spencer Long and Morgan Moses). And they have the young backups in LeRibeus, Tom Compton and Adam Gettis.
"Compton, LeRibeus and Gettis all have worked their tails off," Foerster said. "They have to step up this year because there will be a lot of competition .... Now you add Spender and Morgan to the mix and it's a group of guys that all have a chance to play in this league."
How well they play is always another matter. But the Redskins hope their depth is stronger in part because of a much better offseason by LeRibeus, who is working at both guard spots. Several months ago there was concern about him and if he'd have the proper motivation to succeed. Or if he was someone they'd need to constantly prod.
This is a big season for the former third-round pick. He's playing for a new head coach and must prove he deserves a spot. But he'll report to training camp in much better standing than a year ago.
"Right now his physical abilities are very good," Foerster said. "You don't see glaring weaknesses in his game. Every now and then he misses something, little things. But that comes from playing and getting more reps. I'm real happy with his game."
- Receiver DeSean Jackson. Is he practicing? You need to be cautious with players this time of year, but this is also valuable time.
- The different ways players are being used. The Redskins worked their outside linebackers at different spots last week. They clearly plan to tap into the versatility of their top three outside linebackers. Sometimes things that are planned in May and June fall apart during the season. This one, I think, will stick.
- Guard Shawn Lauvao. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time watching the free-agent pickup. Just want to see how he moves around, how he uses his hands. And then we’ll wait until the pads come on in August to learn a lot more.
- Robert Griffin III’s passing. It was fine a couple weeks ago, but sporadic when we could watch last week. I’ve seen changes to his mechanics, how he’s consistently holding the ball higher to cut down the length of his delivery for example. Now we need to see some consistency in his accuracy. (Again, he was inconsistent in practices as a rookie, too. Just for point of reference. Last summer when we saw him he looked more off than on.) Griffin’s had a good offseason in terms of getting work done and tweaking his game. I do expect a bounce-back season, but to what extent?
- David Amerson. Haven’t spent enough time watching him, just to see what sort of progression there is in his game. I do know he’s working a lot on press coverage, something he did not do in college and improved at throughout his rookie season.
- The emphasis during practice. When we watched last week, they worked a lot on red zone situations from various spots. Griffin also dumped a lot of passes off to running back Roy Helu last week. Sometimes those are by design. In watching his games again from last season, Griffin needs to get to those checkdowns sooner; would have avoided more sacks. So if it’s a point of emphasis now, that’s a good thing, just to get in the mindset. I wouldn’t worry about him doing a reincarnation of John Beck versus San Francisco.
- Rookie progression. Have to give them time, but what sort of steps have they taken? It’s tough to focus on everything, but is Morgan Moses doing a better job at all of staying lower and not bending at his waist? Is Bashaud Breeland cutting down on the holding/pass interference plays? That sort of stuff. Again, this will be a long process for all of them.
- Haven’t seen a whole lot of Jason Hatcher this spring. He missed the session we watched last week for personal reasons. So I’m curious to see how he moves off the line, etc.
- If any focus groups show up. OK, I doubt that will be the case. But apparently they used another focus group to gauge the feelings of various aspects of the organization – how fans think about owner Dan Snyder or president Bruce Allen, for example. I know this: They’ll like them a lot more if they win. No focus group needs to be used to determine that logic.
The only remaining unsigned rookies are: second-round pick Trent Murphy and the first of two third-round choices, Morgan Moses.
But everyone else has signed their contracts: guard Spencer Long (third round), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (fourth round), receiver Ryan Grant (fifth round), running back Lache Seastrunk (sixth round), tight end Ted Bolser (seventh round) and place kicker Zach Hocker (seventh round).
All of the draft picks are expected to attend the three-day rookie minicamp that begins Friday and runs through Sunday. Ten undrafted free agents and a number of tryout players also will attend.
Here’s a quick rundown on how the signed rookies fit in:
- Long will begin at right guard, where he played at Nebraska, though the Redskins feel he can play all three interior positions. One scout felt he was better at center; the Redskins like him at guard. The Redskins also have former draft picks Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis and Maurice Hurt at guard -- and also signed veteran Shawn Lauvao to start and Mike McGlynn to backup. It’s a crowded field.
- Breeland will compete to be a backup corner, the No. 4 at best. But they expect him to provide immediate help on special teams. Among the other corners jockeying for this spot: E.J. Biggers, Chase Minnifield, Richard Crawford.
- Grant can play in the slot, but needs to get stronger. The Redskins need depth at receiver. They’re set with their top three receivers (DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts). They also have Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson and Santana Moss.
- Seastrunk has a chance to earn playing time this season because of his ability to be a home run hitter out of the backfield, as coach Jay Gruden said Saturday. Seastrunk clearly has the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. But he’ll also need to show that he can handle a pass-catching role -- something the Redskins don’t need him to do this year, but will be one they’d like him for in the future. It’s not just about his hands as it is being able to handle pass-protection duties that will matter as well. "I really feel like I can catch the ball very, very well," Seastrunk said. “I feel like I proved that at the combine and at my pro day.”
- Bolser must show he can help on special teams, something he did at Indiana. He likely would be more of a move tight end, rather than someone lining up on the line a la Logan Paulsen. Niles Paul is the No. 3 tight end right now.
- Hocker will challenge Kai Forbath for the place kicker’s job. It’s hard to imagine the Redskins keeping two kickers, though Jay Gruden called it a possibility. Hocker has a stronger leg for kickoffs, but must show he can make field goals in an NFL game. Forbath is 35-for-40 the past two years combined.
Chances are, that's when most of the players they pick this weekend will be ready for bigger roles. With that in mind, here's how the roster shapes up in '15 and '16:
2016 roster: Griffin (if the team picks up his option. Note: Initially said it was for 2017, it's for '16).
Conclusion: They don’t need a starter, but, perhaps next year, they’ll have to start finding another player to groom as a backup assuming Griffin re-emerges.
2015 roster: Alfred Morris, Darrel Young and Chris Thompson.
2016 roster: Thompson.
Conclusion: It’s not a pressing need because they could always re-sign Morris or find another back next year in the draft. However, they have checked out some backs such as West Virginia’s Charles Sims and Notre Dame’s George Atkinson III. There is a need to find someone else; Thompson is not a full-time option.
2016 roster: Roberts, Garcon, Jackson.
Conclusion: Still a need for depth, but finding another quality starter – right now – is not a must. However, it would be wise to find someone in a receiver-heavy draft who can be developed. They’ll have to make a decision after this year on Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson. Also, Garcon and Jackson’s contracts are up after the ’16 season.
2015 roster: Trent Williams, Chris Chester, Kory Lichtensteiger, Shawn Lauvao, Mike McGlynn, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Tevita Stevens, Kevin Kowalski.
2016 roster: Lauvao, Lichtensteiger, Stevens.
Conclusion: I think we all know a right tackle is a strong possibility. Polumbus is not under contract after this season and neither is Tom Compton. Do the math; the Redskins have to find someone here at some point. And look at the ’16 roster; you don’t want to be in a position where you have to re-sign or sign that many players in one spot.
2016 roster: Reed.
Conclusion: Paulsen could always be re-signed, but regardless the Redskins could use a little more help here in the future. It’s a definite possibility as the Redskins look to bolster their weapons – and guard against Reed’s durability issues.
2015 roster: Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, Clifton Geathers, Jason Hatcher, Kedric Golston, Chris Baker, Gabe Miller.
2016 roster: Hatcher, Cofield, Miller, Baker.
Conclusion: Only Hatcher is signed beyond 2016. There’s depth here for the next two seasons, but in 2016 if Hatcher and Cofield are still viable both will be past their prime.
2016: Riley, Hayward, Jenkins.
Conclusion: This is one reason the Redskins have looked at a number of outside linebackers during the draft process. Also, thinking long-term, they might not want to pay both Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo big money. But there's also a need to find and develop an inside 'backer, unless they're confident Keenan Robinson could be that guy. Too early to say that's the case given his injury history.
2015 roster: DeAngelo Hall, Tracy Porter, David Amerson, Chase Minnifield, Richard Crawford, Peyton Thompson.
2016 roster: Hall, Amerson, Thompson.
Conclusion: There’s not an immediate need, but there’s little doubt this position could still be fortified. Also, though Hall is under contract through 2016, where will his game be after the ’15 season? Still, if need be, they could get by with adding a late-round corner this year and seeing if he develops.
2015 roster: Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo.
2016 roster: Thomas, Rambo.
Conclusion: They need more bodies here. This is not a deep draft for safeties but it would be wise to grab one, especially when you see how it breaks down after this season. There’s a strong need – even if Thomas or Rambo develops into a starter.
He then added this line: “If we mislead 31 other teams then it’s successful."
But Allen also said after free agency, “There’s no gaping holes on the roster.” The Redskins added potential starters at inside linebacker (Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan), an interior pass-rusher (Jason Hatcher), receiving help (DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts), a starting guard (Shawn Lauvao) and a nickel corner (Tracy Porter).
Among the highlights:
- They’re more apt to trade down than up. Washington lacks the ammunition to trade too high in the first round, but trading back is a distinct possibility. The Redskins have only six picks and have done a good job in recent years of acquiring more. “If we have a player that has a first-round grade that falls to us it will make us less likely to trade out of there,” Allen said. “But we have several players who have about the same grade on them and if that’s the case and we get the opportunity, we would move.”
- As for moving up, Allen said, “I can’t imagine there won’t be other teams that have more picks that aren’t trying to get into the bottom of the first round. I think it’s unlikely, but we’ll listen to other people’s offers.”
- Allen said he’s had no conversations with other teams about trading for quarterback Kirk Cousins. “We have three quarterbacks who can win for us,” Allen said.
- The Redskins’ new coaches were helped by seeing their players in a voluntary minicamp last week, but it won’t necessarily impact the draft (though coach Jay Gruden said last week that it helped). Allen said nothing they saw last week resulted in any grades being changed on players in the draft. “It’s allowed us to maybe do some doubling and tripling and quadruple checking of the talent,” Allen said.
- The Redskins won’t target one position at No. 34; the draft is too unpredictable to do so. They also won’t shy away from a lot of positions just because there’s not an immediate need. “We feel we can follow the draft board and go with the highest-ranked player we have. Obviously if there are ties, then we lean toward a position that we don’t have depth on for 2015 or ’16,” Allen said.
- In other words, the Redskins aren’t just eyeing how a player will fit in for this season. Like Allen said, “You’re an injury away from having a need.”
- The tough part comes when the staff has to separate players who have the same grade. That’s where the real debate enters. “All the position coaches are great agents for their position," Allen said. "Raheem [Morris] is famous for campaigning. He might put a bumper sticker on my car in the mornings. But the debates have already taken place.”
What they’ve done: Signed G Shawn Lauvao, G/C Mike McGlynn, released C Will Montgomery, moved Kory Lichtensteiger from LG to C.
Problem solved: Can’t say that yet. The potential is there, but so are the questions. While there are things to like about Lauvao, he was inconsistent in Cleveland. And, while I’ve long thought Lichtensteiger was best suited for center, we still don’t know how he’ll fare. Keep in mind, too, that it could take time for them to mesh. McGlynn was part of a bad line in Indianapolis; he was better at center than guard. Washington looked at a potential new right tackle in Donald Penn, but did not sign him. The interior struggled more than anywhere last season and that, at least, was addressed. But Chester did not have a good season and, as of now, will return.
What needs to happen: Lauvao needs to become a consistent starter. In watching his games at Cleveland, a couple things jump out. One, he does play with some attitude. Lauvao stuck with pass plays longer than most, so when the quarterback extended a play he stayed with his man. Too often that wasn’t always the case here last season. Lauvao liked the hard shove at the end of a block, almost a punctuation point, and always looked for someone to hit. He also probably led the Browns in helping ball carriers off the ground. Lauvao has longer arms, which always helps. But he sometimes would get too upright and defenders would get into his chest too fast. Lauvao seemed to move well, which should make him a good fit in the outside zone game (as Cleveland coaches felt he would be). He will provide more power at left guard than Lichtensteiger could at 280-285 pounds.
Work also needs to be done at center and right guard. Lichtensteiger’s quickness and smarts should help at center, but he still needs to add 10-15 pounds and show that he can handle snapping and blocking in the pistol. It’s a tough transition for some. And it’s not like blocking out of regular shotgun formation because that’s usually a pass set or draw. You’re not firing off the ball as you need to in pistol. Finally, the right guard spot needs more consistency. If it’s not Chester, then one of the young guards needs to finally show they’re worthy. That means Josh LeRibeus needs a strong offseason; he’s off to a good start by weighing only 317 pounds but now he must sustain and improve his play. Can you trust he’ll be that disciplined each offseason? No, there’s proof to the contrary (college, 2013). Adam Gettis continues to get stronger and that will help. He improved as a run-blocker. Maurice Hurt? I like the other two better, but we’ll see where Hurt is at after losing 2013 to a knee injury. It’s not as if they’re playing behind Pro Bowlers so it will speak volumes if all are backups again. Here’s how it should work: A team drafts players, develops them and when there’s a need one becomes a starter, saving the team from either having to spend for a free agent or to keep a player around at a higher cap figure. That’s not how it’s worked here – yet. Still time. But it's tough to know where these players are at (except for the coaches) because they haven't played substantially since last preseason.
Address in the draft: Yes. The Redskins clearly are not satisfied with Polumbus at right tackle. It’s why they courted Penn and it’s why they’ve held some private pre-draft workouts with, among others, Morgan Moses. That’s smart; the Redskins absolutely need to see if they can upgrade here. Polumbus’ play definitely improved in 2013 and he was clearly not the cause of the offensive issues. Could he have played better? Of course. But to think they’ll suddenly take off as an offense with a new right tackle is silly. If they can’t succeed with the weapons they have added offensively – and with a quarterback once selected No. 2 overall -- then they have far bigger issues than right tackle. Having said all that, if there’s a right tackle they like at No. 34, they should take him. If they added a young athletic talent it would give them quite the bookends. But just remember it will take time for that player to learn. Is Tom Compton in the mix? I think we’ll find out more after the draft, based on what the Redskins do – or don’t do.
The last word: As was evident in 2013, the line struggled in one-on-one pass-rush matchups. It was not a strength. And too often quarterback Robert Griffin III couldn't step into throws because of a tight pocket. But, while giving the quarterback time is a key, no quarterback will ever have all the time he wants. You still have to make plays. The Colts had a horrible line last season, yet still made the playoffs and Andrew Luck still threw 23 touchdowns to only nine interceptions. Russell Wilson was sacked 44 times; he had an excellent season. Heck, two years ago Griffin played behind the same line he did in 2013 and the offense flourished – his impact had a tremendous trickle-down effect. But the reality is, last year he needed more help – both because of physical limitations and where he was at as a pocket passer, facing different coverages and looks and having no offseason to improve -- and certain areas of the line were exposed. He will always need more time than some quarterbacks just because of his ability to extend plays, which is a great asset. (Wilson uses this as well.) It also needs to be pointed out that the run game was productive with this group the past two years; there are other factors involved in that success, just as pass-protection issues are not just the fault of the front five. The line needs to improve, but it'll need help, too, whether from the scheme, game situations or Griffin's growth as a quarterback.
Still, it will be different with Shawn Lauvao at left guard and Kory Lichtensteiger at center.
“I feel we had a bunch of pieces already in place and [we] added some more and bulked up the offensive line a little bit. I’m thinking this thing can work out the best for us.”
Whether that does won’t be answered for another five months or so. Until then, it’s all speculation. Lauvao had a spotty track record in Cleveland, though multiple sources with the Browns said they wanted him back (clearly not at the price Washington paid).
Lichtensteiger has played guard the past three years, but now replaces Will Montgomery at center.
“When we played against [Lauvao in Cleveland], we had a lot of respect for him,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I read some negative things about him, but among our defensive linemen we knew he was a guy that could play and played well for them when we played them two years ago.”
Washington also flirted with Donald Penn, who would have replaced Tyler Polumbus at right tackle. That position could be addressed in the draft as well.
The Redskins’ line wasn’t a big issue after the 2012 season, though in truth the scheme helped mask some deficiencies. The zone-read and the play-action game -- both in the stretch and regular -- caused hesitation at times among pass-rushers. Teams did not blitz as often. All of that helped give quarterback Robert Griffin III enough time to throw (or escape).
Last season, minus a similar threat, Griffin needed more time. And the line was forced, especially early in the season, to drop back without the benefit of as much play action. Not their strength. The result: more pressure. Griffin can help himself by making quicker decisions. The line can help with better protection, especially up the middle. That is, if the Redskins want to get the ball down the field. With DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon, that likely is the plan.
And that means more pressure on the line to protect Griffin. Re-establishing the play-action part of their attack would help tremendously.
“We have to hold up a little longer,” Williams said. “Those guys are fast ... But that’s what we get paid to do.”
The Redskins can begin two weeks earlier than most teams because they have a new coach. Gruden has met many of his new players, but coaches were prohibited by the collective bargaining agreement from discussing football with them (whether or not that was followed who knows). That restriction ends Monday.
This means Monday also will be the first chance for the new players to be around a lot of their teammates: receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, guard Shawn Lauvao, defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, quarterback Colt McCoy, safety Ryan Clark, linebackers Adam Hayward, Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton and offensive lineman Mike McGlynn. And it will provide quarterback Robert Griffin III a chance to show how he's progressed after working out the past couple months -- with teammates in Arizona and in town and also with noted quarterbacks coach Terry Shea.
Of course, these workouts are voluntary so players don’t have to show up though almost all will.
Here’s how the workouts break down for the offseason:
- For the first two weeks, the Redskins will be in Phase 1 of their offseason program. In accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, that means they’ll be limited to strength and conditioning exercises (or rehab if need be). They can’t work with coaches on the field and a quarterback may opt to throw with his receivers, but they can’t be covered. They can’t wear helmets and coaches can’t work with them on the field.
- In Phase 2, which lasts three weeks, coaches can work with the players on the field for instruction or drills. They can run plays as a unit, but not against opposition, so it’s 11 on 0. No offense versus defense drills are allowed at all. And still no helmets.
- Phase 3 lasts for four weeks and includes the 10 days of organized team activity sessions. During the first two weeks they can conduct a maximum of three OTA sessions; they can have up to four OTA workouts in either the third or fourth week of this period. When not conducting an OTA workout that week, teams revert back to Phase 2 guidelines. During Phase 3, coaches again can be on the field. But there are still no one-on-one drills. However, they can pit the offense versus the defense in full-team sessions (or, for special teams, the kick return against coverage). Helmets can be worn, but no shells or pads. And no live conduct is allowed.
Other important dates:
- Voluntary minicamp: April 29-May 1 (closed to the public)
- Rookie minicamp: May 16-18 (closed to the public)
- Veteran minicamp: June 17-19 (closed to the public)