Who should start at right tackle?

Who should start at right tackle?
June 21, 2013, 8:15 am
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Tandler - Tarik

By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
CSNwashington.com

A year ago the Redskins had Jammal Brown set to be their starting right tackle for the 2012 season. But on the eve of training camp Brown suffered a hip injury that would put him on the PUP list and, eventually, injured reserve.

In stepped Tyler Polumbus, a journeyman utility reserve player. He ended up starting 15 games and the Redskins led the NFL in rushing yards and in yards per play. But was the offense so efficient because Polumbus played over 1000 snaps at right tackle? Or in spite of him? Should he be the starter in 2013? If not Polumbus, who should start? Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir debate these questions in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.

Rich Tandler: There has been a lot of talk about tweaking the offensive scheme in order to better protect quarterback Robert Griffin III from injury. One modification that could be made would be to find an alternative to Polumbus. According to Pro Football Focus Polumbus gave up eight sacks, more than anyone else on the team. And he was charged with 46 QB hurries. The Redskins passed 442 times so on about one out of every 10 passes, Polumbus’ man was able to hurry the throw by RG3 or Kirk Cousins. If the Redskins want to make Griffin more of a pocket passer they will need to find an alternative to their leaky right tackle. 

Tarik El-Bashir: I enjoy stats as much as anyone. So I’m going to point out a few, as well. With 2,709 yards, the Redskins led the league in rushing last season. A rookie quarterback (albeit a very good one) ranked third in the NFL with 102.4 passer rating. The Redskins’ offense averaged 27.3 points per game, good for fourth best. How much of a drag could Polumbus have actually been? Not sure about you, but based on those numbers, I’m not inclined to change anything up front, particularly in a complex zone-blocking scheme that puts a premium on chemistry.

Tandler: I get the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. Problem is it doesn’t always work so well in the NFL. The road to RG3 went through the right tackle spot last year and defensive coordinators who have spent their offseasons watching film of the Redskins’ offense are highly aware of that. I’m not saying that they should just kick Polumbus to the curb. But they would be crazy—not to mention hazardous to Griffin’s well being—to just hand him the job. There needs to be a fair competition for the starting job between Polumbus, veterans Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood, and second-year player Tom Compton. If Polumbus can survive that gauntlet he deserves the job. If he does, he should be an improved player because of it.

El-Bashir: Polumbus is a smart guy. He’s also a hard worker. Furthermore, he showed improvement each week last season, his first as a full-time starter. As a result, I believe it’s completely reasonable to expect the 28-year-old to be better (read: react quicker, think less) in 2013. If he doesn’t continue his upward trajectory, it will become apparent in the preseason and he’ll get beat out by either Trueblood or Pashos. But I’m not sure either of them would provide a measurable improvement – ProFootballFocus.com ranked Trueblood as the league's 72nd best tackle (out of 76) in 2011, while Pashos, 32, missed all of 2012 following foot surgery. One more thing: If right tackle is such huge deficiency, why didn’t Mike Shanahan pluck one from this year’s deep draft class of offensive linemen? Perhaps it's because the issue isn’t as big as some have made it out to be.