Ten Questions: Offensive Line Health
Whether the Redskins are able to survive any potential long-term injury to a starting offensive lineman is the No. 9 question in our countdown to the start of training camp.
BY ZAC BOYER
With the Redskins set to begin training camp on July 25, we’ll count down the top 10 questions the team faces heading into the season. Today:
9. Can the Redskins survive injuries on the offensive line?
Often lost in the discussion of Robert Griffin III’s record-breaking rookie season was the performance of the Redskins’ offensive line, which had to adjust to protecting a mobile quarterback for the first time.
The offensive line was in upheaval in 2011, with three of the five players who began the season as starters missing at least one game because of injury. In all, the Redskins trotted out eight different starting combinations, 10 players were asked to make at least one start, and three started games at different positions.
That wasn’t the case last year, when the five starters – Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus – lined up for approximately 96 percent of all regular-season snaps. Only Polumbus missed a start when he sat out of the game against Philadelphia on Dec. 23 after experiencing symptoms of a concussion.
Williams was hampered at times last season by leg injuries, but he was still selected to his first Pro Bowl. Lichtensteiger returned after a devastating knee injury that cost him half of the previous season and all of training camp and the preseason. Montgomery even played through a sprained MCL in his left knee over the final month. Still, just three players – Jordan Black, Maurice Hurt and Josh LeRibeus – filled in as a reserve.
In football, that type of health is atypical, which is why teams often look to load up on offensive line depth. Despite their needs, the Redskins, hampered by the $18 million salary cap penalty, decided to spend their money elsewhere, bringing in just two veterans on minimum-salary contracts – Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos – to provide a degree of experienced competition.
But Trueblood and Pashos only practiced at right tackle during offseason workouts, and each player said he hasn’t played on the left side of the offensive line in a long time. Only Hurt and Tom Compton, who was on the 53-man roster for only four games during his rookie year, will return able to back up Williams at left tackle. There’s a bit more clarity on the interior of the line: LeRibeus and Adam Gettis, also entering his second year without having played a snap, can play all three positions, and the team brought in fourth-year center Kevin Matthews at the start of training camp for experience.
Two years ago, undrafted tackle Willie Smith made the Redskins’ initial roster after a strong training camp. Washington signed three offensive linemen who went undrafted this season – Houston’s Jacolby Ashworth and Florida’s Xavier Nixon, both tackles, and Utah’s Tevita Stevens, a center. But Smith, who’s now with the Raiders, only played because of the rash of injuries, and if any of the three appear in a game this season, the Redskins will be in trouble.
Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus