Mon, 26 Jul 2021

Position Breakdown: A Mix Of Youth And Experience At Offensive Line

Washington Redskins
20 Jul 2021, 17:03 GMT+10

Zach Selby

We are days away from training camp, and there are plenty of new faces gracing the Washington Football Team's roster. So Washingtonfootball.com is breaking down each position as the team prepares for Year 2 of Ron Rivera's regime. Here are the positions we've covered so far:

Running back Defensive line Wide receiver Linebackers Safeties Cornerback

Now it's time to dive into the offensive line. The left side of the group was one of more discussed competitions during last year's training camp, and even though Geron Christian and Wes Martin emerged as the Week 1 starters, there was a rotating group at both spots for much of the season.

Eventually, Cornelius Lucas and Wes Schweitzer became the starting left tackle and guard, and that resulted in more consistency up front. It was during this time that Antonio Gibson had some of his best games, and Alex Smith was protected enough to help Washington win five of its last seven games.

The offensive line has more experience together this year, but questions still remain. Chase Roullier and Brandon Scherff remain on the roster, but the right tackle spot is up for grabs at Morgan Moses' departure. The addition and return of several players points to the position as well as others to be contested over training camp.

ROSTER SUBTRACTIONS

Morgan Moses

KEY ADDITIONS

Sam Cosmi Charles Leno Jr. Ereck Flowers

Key Storylines

-- Where does Saahdiq Charles fit?: Charles' rookie season was reduced to two snaps because of injuries in training camp and the regular season, but now he's on track to being ready for Week 1. Offensive line assistant coach Travelle Wharton said Charles has the strength to play at guard and the quickness to play at tackle, which is why he was at both positions during OTAs and minicamp. Charles doesn't have a preference on where he plays, but that isn't stopping fans from speculating. Either way, they can expect Charles to show off the skills that his coaches praised last year.

"I wouldn't say I'm the same player," Charles said, "but I still have things from my game from the last time you guys saw me. And I've added some new things now."

-- Pro Bowl experience at tackle: Having established starters like Leno hit the open market late in the offseason is a rare occurrence, and it makes sense why Washington was quick to swoop in and grab him. Leno has started every game since Week 4 of the 2015 season and hardly missed any time during that span. He put up some of his best numbers in 2018 -- a 75.7 overall grade that included a 79.2 pass-blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus -- which helped him a Pro Bowl vote that season. It's more depth on the offensive line, which is something Rivera has proven he loves to have on his roster.

"Having another guy that has been a very durable, veteran player," Rivera said. "I just don't think you can have enough quality offensive line depth. Last year we were very fortunate and at one point including the practice squad guys, we had 16 offensive linemen. We had 10 guys that were active and six on the practice squad and I just felt that that was a big plus for us."

-- All the talent at left guard: Tackle isn't the only position on the offensive line that has multiple players competing for a starting job. Left guard is another spot that could be battled over throughout camp. Schweitzer was named the full-time starter in Week 7 and had the best PFF overall grade of his career. Martin now has more starting experience, and the team brought back Flowers via trade after having one of his better seasons as a guard for Washington in 2019. Charles has also been spending some time there as well, so it's clear Rivera wants to ensure he has the right person in the role.

"I think that's a very competitive position," Rivera said. "I like what we are getting from Wes [Schweitzer] and Ereck [Flowers Sr.] at the left guard position ... it's a good mixture of young and veteran players that are really developing and helping solidify your offensive line for us."

What To Watch

-- The growth of Cosmi: The rookie from Texas made an immediate impression working out with Brandon Scherff, who was so impressed he said, "Holy s*, where'd you come from?" That doesn't guarantee him a starting job, but it does show he has the strength to play at the professional level.

With that being said, Cosmi will have just as much an opportunity to earn a spot among the starting five linemen as everyone else. He only allowed one quarterback hit in his final season with the Longhorns and was the best pass-blocking tackle in the Big 12. Cosmi has the resume, so Rivera's strategy is simple: put him at left tackle and see how he does.

"That's what he did in college, and he played it very well in college," Rivera said. "That's why we think he's a really good pick for us because of what he does. He's going to get an opportunity to compete for us, and we'll see how he does."

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