By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
Countdown to kickoff question 7: Do the Redskins have quality OL depth?
Robert Griffin III is back. So is Brian Orakpo. In all, the Redskins retained 21 of the 22 starters who led them to the NFC East title in 2012. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any potential pitfalls as the new season approaches – because there are. Over the next week, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will identify and examine seven areas of concern going forward.
Youth was served on cutdown day for the Redskins, at least when it comes to the reserves on their offensive line. Three 2012 draft picks, interior linemen Josh LeRibeus (3rd round) and Adam Gettis (5th) and tackle Tom Compton (6th) are the only O-linemen on the roster beside the five starters. That leaves Compton as the swing tackle, the guy who has to be ready to go into the game at either tackle spot on a moment’s notice. That’s some pretty heavy responsibility for a guy who has never played an NFL snap.
Rich Tandler: Just to sum up the NFL playing time of the backups, Gettis has never even been active for a game and LeRibeus played parts of two games at the end of last season. That’s pretty light in the experience department and it has to be considered a risk to be one play away from having a player take his first NFL snap in a pressure situation. But the thing is, we rarely know about offensive linemen when they take the field for the first time. There are no rotations or situational substitutions along the O-line. Usually someone gets hurt and the young lineman’s debut comes suddenly and with no fanfare. That’s what happened with LeRibeus last year when left guard Kory Lichtensteiger went out with an ankle injury in the season finale and again in the playoff game. He held his own in a pressure-packed situation and the Redskins will just have to trust that Gettis and Compton can do the same if called upon.
El-Bashir: Offensive line depth wasn’t a problem last season. In fact, only one starter (Tyler Polumbus) missed a game. There were two reasons for that: 1) the Redskins’ linemen are tough and play through bumps and bruises and 2) good fortune. While they can certainly count on the former, they can’t rely on the latter. Injuries happen. And if they do, the Redskins could be in a world of hurt. As Rich pointed out, inexperience at the backup positions is, indeed, a problem. The coaching staff is high on Gettis and Compton, but LeRibeus' development has been stunted by a lack of conditioning. I also suspect the O-line is the position group most affected most by the $36 million salary cap penalty the team was dealt by the NFL. Had additional cap space been available, Coach Mike Shananan almost certainly would have targeted a high caliber free agent. One (minor) positive: guard/tackle Maurice Hurt is eligible to come off the reserve/PUP list in Week 6. Hurt has eight career starts at guard and one at tackle.
Upcoming on Countdown to Kickoff
- Question 6 Tomorrow: Are the Redskins better at safety with Rambo and Meriweather?
- Question 5 Thursday: Will defenses slam the door on the read option?
- Question 4 Friday: Can Orakpo help make the Redskins pass rush a disruptive force?