This morning, we examined the Redskins’ 2014 outlook for the interior offensive line. Now, CSNWashington.com Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will give their take on the most pressing issue at the position: Should Jay Gruden make wholesale changes at guard and center?
Tandler: This is not an easy question to answer without knowing what Gruden is going to do in the running game. He said at his introductory press conference that he liked how the team ran the ball with a zone scheme in 2013 (2,164 yards, 5th in NFL). But his Bengals offense relied most on power and featured larger linemen. Let’s assume he emphasized the zone, giving LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, and RG Chris Chester a shot at staying. Of the three, Chester is the oldest (31), has the highest salary cap number ($4.3 million) and got the worst grade from Pro Football Focus (-5.5). If one of them needs to go, it’s Chester. If backups Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis seem to be capable of starting, let them battle it out for the job. If not, someone like Mike Pollak, who started five games for Gruden’s Bengals last year, could be brought in at a fairly low cost until the team can find a long-term solution in the draft. As for Lichtensteiger and Montgomery, if Gruden thinks they can pass protect in his scheme he should replace them only if there is immediate help in the draft or if Gettis or LeRibeus can win the job.
El-Bashir: One of Gruden’s top priorities this offseason will be figuring out who stays and who goes along the offensive line he inherited. And, as Rich correctly points out, that’s going to depend on the style of running game Gruden intends to implement. Last season, the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in yards per rush (4.8) with Alfred Morris running behind a lighter, more nimble group of linemen who are built to zone block. Will Gruden tailor his playbook to what worked well the last two seasons and the Redskins' existing personnel? Or will he use the power-based run plays he featured so prominently in Cincinnati? If it’s the former, Lichtensteiger, Mongtomery and Chester figure to be in the mix to return as starters. But if it’s the latter, Gruden must retool the line with bigger, stronger players built to excel in the power blocking system. Lichtensteiger, Montgomery and Chester average 299 pounds, with Lichtensteiger weighing the least at 284 pounds. Meantime, the Bengals’ guards and center in 2013 averaged 320 pounds. Lichtensteiger, in fact, weighs a whopping 51 pounds less than Cincinnati’s left guard Andrew Whitworth. Size isn’t everything in the NFL. But it could be a huge factor as Gruden sorts out his offensive line.