Sunday, January 15, 2012

Evaluating The Redskins - Offensive Line

Defensive Line

The Offensive Line was a concern coming into this season, although a little depth was addressed in the draft/pre-draft FA, it was widely thought we'd be lucky if those guys panned out. The starting line had some promise and it was thought that the group staying healthy could be highly beneficial to the offense. As the year went on, depth was tested heavily through injury and suspension.

Trent Williams: The #4 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, entering his 2nd sophomore season, a lot was expected of the Silverback. Trent didn't attend the team organized workouts during the lockout, but showed up to training camp in great shape. His demeanor and attitude were thought to be well improved. Trent had a couple ups and downs in game at times early in the year, suffering through injury at a crucial stretch in the year during a losing streak, but generally played exceptionally well, often blocking at an All-Pro level. He showed excellent ability to get to the next level blocking, especially on screen passes. After the Jets game, it was discovered that Trent, along with TE Fred Davis, would be suspended the final 4 games of the season for failing multiple NFL drug tests, believed to be for marijuana.
Grade: B

Kory Lichtensteiger: Kory was playing very well through the first 5 games of the season, but went down to injury in a loss to the Eagles. I've argued that Kory was perhaps the Redskins best offensive lineman to that point, and his loss proved to be critical, especially considering that Trent Williams suffered his injury that game as well. Kory was extremely versatile, pulling to block outside, and he was very sufficient in communicating with C Will Montgomery early on.
Grade: B-

Will Montgomery: Will played 2 positions this year, so I'll start first by saying that if I were to grade him for his play at LG (which was the result of losing both Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger and comfort with the LT replacement Sean Locklear, I'd give him a D. However, Montgomery played extremely well at Center this year, and is believed to have been one of the best in the NFC. There were some very key struggles though, especially when playing heavier DT's like Sioni Pouha, an Vince Wilfork. But Montgomery's knowledge of the offense and the ability to adjust the line pre-snap and communicate with the quarterback proved to be valuable as he often helped put this offense into position to make some good plays, especially late in the year in the run game. To be fair to this list, I will grade him overall, and the time at Guard will weigh him down. If I had to grade him for strictly his play at Center, he'd have a B+.
Grade: B-

Chris Chester: Chester is the only guy on the offensive line to play every single game at one position. His speed and agility were a strength in the run game, especially late in the year, and he definitely seems more comfortable attacking the defense and getting to the next level opening holes for the running backs, and he seemed less comfortable in pass protection, although not horrible. Another year in this system could really be beneficial for Chester, who suffered most this season during the period of Trent Williams & Kory Lichtensteiger's injury and the line shift, being lined up next to Eric Cook instead of Will Montgomery.
Grade: C

Jammal Brown: Brown is a very rare talent. This guy is still good enough to be a LT, and I'm sure he'd be a lot more comfortable at LT as well. Unfortunately, his talents have been hampered by the hip injury which caused the Saints to trade him, and it has been a recurring issue. Brown's ability to block the edge has suffered, and it shows when speed rushers are lined up across from him. He's been abused several times. Brown is, however, an exceptional run blocker still, much like Trent Williams. He's violent when he gets to attack the defense, and he's bright enough to engage the block to spring the runner for extra yards, rather than try and chip or take a weak angle. Brown will spend a lot of time rehabbing this offseason at Redskins Park, which means 1 of 2 things. Either he gets healthy with the team, evaluated to get surgery to get healthier, or they will determine he's not fit to continue here, at least as a starter.
Grade: C

Sean Locklear: Sean saw limited action this season, proving to coaches he wasn't a comfortable LT. His only other relief effort was a brief stint at RT late in the year for a series, where he got abused.
Grade: F

Willie Smith: Smith is a very young tackle, and was eventually asked to replace Locklear at LT in relief, and then to replace Trent Williams during his suspension. Smith struggled early on in his first stint, and then struggled more early on in his second stint, but as he got more time on the field, it paid off and he was blocking like a very reliable talent. Smith showed us that we may have far more depth on our line than we believed, and may have proven himself a capable starter who might have some value if Trent Williams can keep himself out of trouble and healthy. Smith was violent blocking in the run game, and at times looked as much like a rock in pass protection as Chris Samuels did.
Grade: C+

Eric Cook: Cook got called in to play Center during the Beck-stretch, which was the stretch when Montgomery was moved to LG and Locklear started at LT. Cook got blown up constantly, didn't communicate well with the line or QB, and struggled to get much going. Worse than his pass-protection was his run-blocking, which helped see Ryan Torain eventually get benched and Roy Helu not get many touches on the ground, rather, have to go out and set the Redskins franchise record for receptions in a game.
Grade: F

Maurice Hurt: Hurt is a guy we grabbed late in the draft, and one of those aforementioned guys we were hoping could provide depth. Hurt got extended play-time at LG when Trent Williams returned to the lineup and Montgomery returned to Center. He finished the year off at LG, and played very strong the more he was on the field with teammates building a rapport for how they play and communicate. Hurt's still a far way from being a dominant lineman, but he showed a lot of promise, and constantly seemed to improve from snap-to-snap.
Grade: C

Tyler Polumbus: This kid was a surprise. He got a couple snaps at LT rotating with Willie Smith, but eventually played across from Smith as the RT, and did an exceptional job. He was a huge part of a stretch of games where the Redskins' run game looked as good as one could hope for, and was really pummeling defenders in the run game. His pass protection, like the others, was very shaky, but also improved with time on the field. He's got an agility that is beneficial in this offense and fits the scheme, rather than the scheme fitting him. He has some promise, whether it's a lot or a little is yet to be determined, but he didn't make many critical mistakes in his time on the field.
Grade: C

Overall, this group gets a C-. They're definitely not all-the-way-there, and more time to gel and become cohesive should do nothing but help them. I think, for an average line (they were average in most aspects as a unit and individually) they did well enough, especially for the multiple makeshift line groups that were thrown together. There's more depth on the line than we imagined at the beginning of the year, and there's more talent in some these guys than we may have anticipated. One of the more intriguing thoughts about this group is how well they will play with longevity and health, and if they can become a more dominant unit to maximize their potential. Time will tell.

Next up: Tight Ends

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