Redskins position outlook: Interior offensive line

Redskins position outlook: Interior offensive line
February 1, 2014, 10:00 am
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Over the next few weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2013 and evaluate the outlook for 2014. Previously we looked at the inside linebackers, outside linebackers, and offensive tackles. Today, it’s the interior offensive line. This afternoon, we’ll take a look at a key question facing the position and examine possible solutions, so be sure to return.

Interior offensive line

Grade: C-

2013 starters: LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester

Reserves: Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus

Free agents: None

Rewind: The interior line either overachieved in 2012 or underachieved last year. Here’s a quick look at their pass protection numbers from the last two years.

Player     2012 sacks/pressures       2013 sacks/pressures

Chester                1/18                                       3/42
Montgomery        1/11                                       2/20
Lichtensteiger      1/19                                       2/27

To be sure, the Redskins passed a lot more in 2013 than they did in 2012 (611 attempts to 442) and Robert Griffin III was more able to elude pass rushers in the pre-injury rookie season. Still, it was a disappointing performance for three veteran players.

When the Redskins ran into the interior of the line they had moderate success, gaining 4.5 yards per carry. But with the zone blocking scheme that the Redskins employed you can’t entirely judge the effectiveness of the guards and center that way. Counting all directions, Redskins rushed for an average of 4.8 yards per attempt, third in the NFL.

Gettis played just 17 snaps after Lichtensteiger had to leave two games due to injuries. LeRibeus was inactive all 16 games after reporting out of shape.

Fast forward: Chester just turned 31; Montgomery turns that age later this month. Lichtensteiger is the kid of the group as he turns 29 in March. They aren’t ancient by NFL O-line standards but if you combine their ages with their decline in performance with salary cap numbers that are becoming significant (see full O-line salary cap details here) you have the potential for change.

A lot depends on how Jay Gruden is going to design his offense, particularly in the running game. In Cincinnati, no offensive line starter weighed less than 315 pounds. Chester is the heaviest of the three in the middle at 309. If Gruden wants to go with more of a power game they will need to bulk up or move over. We will look at that in depth in a post this afternoon.

The big question marks here are what they have in Gettis and LeRibeus. After the Redskins were eliminated from the playoffs, Mike Shanahan still refused to play any backups to see what they can do. Gruden will have only preseason and practice tape to determine if the two third-year players have the potential to help the team. The retention of offensive line coach Chris Foerster helps in this regard; he will be able to give Gruden and the personnel department solid information on the two players.