Let me first state what this is not: I am not panicking. I am not actually all that concerned with the age of our offensive line at this moment, because I think they have enough juice in the tank to at least get the replacement parts installed before the whole thing crumbles. And, indeed, some of those service orders have already been placed; we just drafted Chad Rinehart and last year we developed undrafted rookie free agent Stephon Heyer. We also have a couple young bloods on the roster currently. Although they are mostly undrafted free agents, we've had success with Heyer and there is reason for optimism that lightning will strike twice on one of these guys. As reader Romans12 reminded, don't overlook Kerry Brown, who DraftGuys called a future Pro Bowler. Also, he can see into the future:
We also have one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL in Joe Bugel. The list of "legendary" offensive line coaches is pretty small, but Bugel is on it. He's also been in the coaching business since 1964. I have enormous faith in Bugel to develop the next generation of Redskins linemen.
And I need it, really, because this unit is old, the oldest in the NFL. Fantasy Sports Forum recently did the statistical and data collection heavy lifting and observed the following:
1. As old as we are, the Redskins still get a fair great, which means we're around middle of the pack.
2. Our 3.8 YPC was pretty bad. There are only 3-4 teams with worse YPC in the entire league.
3. Our pass protection, by contrast, was quite admirable. With just 29 allowed sacks, we ranked around 13th in the league.
4. We received a good depth ranking, which I think is fair. We have Jason Fabini to backup the entire unit with Stephon Heyer looking like a reliable future starter in the NFL. The aforementioned Chad Rinehart doesn't hurt, either.
5. The average age of the Redskins offensive line is 32. That's the highest average in the league by a substantial margin. The 2nd highest were the Cowboys, at 30; everyone else is comfortable around 26-29.
6. Five of our starters are 30 or older. Exactly one other team has three players who are 30 or over: Da Bears. Everyone else is 2 or below.
All of which is said not to encourage panic but there's also no point shoving our heads in the sand, either. The team is in need of a youth movement on the offensive line, has taken steps towards that end, but we're far from finished. Chris Samuels is a Pro Bowl tackle; you don't replace him overnight. I consider Randy Thomas a pro bowl caliber guard, and he won't be replaced over night.
It is unlikely that the entire unit craps out all at once. Jon Jansen might miss some time next season, Casey Rabach might miss some time next season, Samuels and Thomas and Kendall might all miss some time next season, but they won't all miss all the time next season. Replacement parts can be brought in piecemeal, but they still need to be ordered. I see us addressing this position more in next year's draft and perhaps in free agency.
A brief note on Kendall... After we lost Derrick Dockery to Buffalo I was concerned how that guard position was going to shake out. We added Kendall and he played well in Dockery's stead. On the other side we brought in Fabini to replace an injured Randy Thomas, and he played well for the majority of the season (not great, but very well). I'm convinced that there are a lot of serviceable backups in the NFL that can help us ease towards transitioning from an old offensive line to a new offensive line as injuries become more prevalent. And a lot of the old guys, like Thomas and Rabach and Samuels and Jansen, are still playing at an extremely high level, so long as they can keep themselves on the field. There's no indication that any of them is getting substantially worse, merely more injury prone.
We need to ask Kerry Brown what's going to happen, because he can see into the future.