So I got into a heated argument this morning on Twitter about the Washington Redskins’ offensive line. The opinion of the person I was arguing with?
The Redskins have absolutely no offensive line depth. The starters aren’t that good. The backups even worse.
Anyone who watched the Redskins last season know that isn’t even anywhere near the truth. The Redskins started the season with somewhat solid play in the trenches. The biggest issue on the line early in the season was veteran Right Tackle Jammal Brown, who had apparently not recovered from his lingering and/or repetitive hip injury. Other than that, Chris Chester struggled a bit at RG. When Kory Lichtensteiger went down with injury, the line really shifted. Maurice Hurt replaced him for a few games before he struggled a little bit. Will Montgomery eventually shifted from C to LG and Eric Cook took over at C. Cook proved to be highly incapable of the job, in my opinion, although it didn’t help matters that the team was not running the football at all and was relying on absolute pampered play of John Beck, and Willie Smith was in for an injured Trent Williams.
When Trent Williams returned for a few games, Hurt was back in the lineup at LG and Montgomery back at C. Jammal Brown eventually went down, leading to Tyler Polumbus cracking the starting lineup and not relinquishing the spot the final 4 games.
The season ended with Trent Williams suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. That gave Willie Smith significant playing time alongside a young Maurice Hurt, Will Montgomery finished the year at Center with Chris Chester at RG, and Polumbus at RT.
The unit played as well as it had the final 6-7 weeks of the season offensively, and quite honestly, as well as any other line in the league. This was still with shifts at both right and left tackle, and left guard. In the final weeks of the season, the Redskins did will protecting Rex Grossman, as well as springing Roy Helu, Jr. and Evan Royster to pretty big games over 100 yards rushing every week.
With Trent Williams returning to the lineup, Left Tackle should be much improved. Williams isn’t the epitome of consistency, but he does very well when the challenge is the toughest. It’s sort of the standard around here that this team and the players play up and down to the level of their competition every week. If they can play up and not down, they (especially Trent) can be among the best in this league.
But just so you know I’m not spouting off BS about where we ranked with the league, let’s look at some stats:
The Redskins were ranked 16th overall in total yards per game; that’s top half of the league.
They were ranked 14th overall in passing yards per game; and that’s with the John Beck debacle in Buffalo.
They also allowed 41 sacks on the year, tied for 11th worst in the league, bottom half.
They ranked 25th in the league in rushing yards per game, way down in the bottom half.
But let’s look a little deeper. The Redskins allowed a total of 9 sacks in one game against the Buffalo Bills. One game. Cut that down to league average of 2 (when the season high for the Bills as a team was 4)? The Redskins would only have allowed 34 sacks on the year. I know, if’s are nice in hindsight but they’re not realistic… but the fact is, you can still measure. Let’s also not forget there’s maybe only one or two sacks in that game that you can actually put on the O-Line as well, the other 7 were on John Beck himself. So realistically, without that game, the Redskins are looking right at the league average of 2 sacks a game.
Then let’s look at the final 6 weeks of the season in rushing, shall we?
Starting in Seattle, Roy Helu rushed for 108 yards on the ground. 100 yards the following week against the Jets. 126 yards the following week against the Patriots. He was injured in a win against the Giants. Evan Royster posted 132 yards against the Vikings, and then closed the season with 113 yards against the Eagles.
Something to think about? The Patriots were 17th in the league in run defense; The Eagles 16th; The Seahawks 15th; The Jets 13th; The Vikings 11th. They’re all middle of the pack run defense teams, but they’re not walks in the park.
The Skins allowed just 1 sack against the Eagles; 3 against the Vikings; 1 against the Giants; 2 against the Patriots; 2 against the Jets; and 1 against the Seahawks. In 6 games, my math brings that to 10? That’s LESS than 2 a game, and less than 2 a game in the final 4 weeks with the lineup of Willie Smith, Maurice Hurt, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, and Tyler Polumbus. Three of those guys are backups, although Smith or Polumbus could start this year at Right Tackle in place of Jammal Brown.
Case in point? The Redskins were easily fielding a SOLID group in the trenches to close the season. There’s actually more depth than we anticipated, especially considering we’ve got 4 new offensive linemen this year, whom the coaching staff all hold in high regard. And to further my argument?
This offensive line was built to utilize Mike Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, run stretch plays and bootlegs, and create lanes based on misdirection. That’s all dependent upon a somewhat mobile quarterback. Many would argue the Redskins have quite possibly the 3rd most mobile quarterback in all of football, so all the plays the Shanahan’s took out of the playbook last year to facilitate an easier game for Rex Grossman, will be back. The stretches, the bootlegs, the naked bootlegs…
Also ask yourself this. How many sacks could the team have avoided had Rex Grossman been a little mobile? Or quick enough to run the bootleg? Or quick enough to run the stretch a few times so he could actually sell playaction and the bootleg? What if Grossman had some footwork so he could step up in the pocket and/or take off when nothing was open downfield instead of running backwards or crouching into the dirt?
Yes, more ifs… but those are questions coaches asked themselves before they went out and traded for the rights to the #2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and acquired Robert Griffin III. There’s a clear upgrade at the quarterback position, which will highlight the strengths of the offensive line, rather than put them under the microscope and making them look weak.
But what do I know? I pulled those stats out of thin air, right?