To say that the Redskins’ offensive line had a rough season in 2011 would be something of an understatement. For most of the way, a patchwork starting five was put in place in wake of Kory Lichtensteiger’s torn ACL, Trent Williams’ penchant for pot and the corpse of Jammal Brown being, well, a corpse.
Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times raised heck among Redskins fans after ranking their defensive line dead last in the NFL. That’s still a topic up for debate, but I think he got his assessment of the Redskins offensive line right at 27thoverall.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Redskins’ two best linemen were Williams and Lichtensteiger, who played pretty well in several categories (subscription required). The rest of the linemen’s performance grades ranged from the “not pretty” (Will Montgomery, Erik Cook, Sean Locklear) to the “downright abysmal” (Chris Chester, Jammal Brown, Maurice Hurt, Tyler Polumbus, Willie Smith).
That isn’t to say that a lot of the youngsters thrown to the wolves last season such as Smith, Hurt and Cook can’t turn things around. But it’s also worth noting how offensive lines are assessed as a unit rather than just the parts that comprise it.
According to Football Outsiders, the Redskins’ unit as a whole was not great, but much better than the traditional eyeball test indicated. Much of the high points they observed in the offensive line unit can be attributed to how good the lines across from them were, which is something they take into account when compiling their metrics. They had the Redskins’ offensive line ranked 10th in adjusted line yards, a good indicator of how well a unit is in run blocking. But in other categories such as run success rate on third and fourth-and-short, the Redskins were below the league average, which is something I touched upon in a previous post.
In terms of passing, the line had the 15th- best adjusted sack rate, which again, takes into account the opponents the Redskins faced. Facing teams with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck DeMarcus Ware, Trent Cole and Jason Babin six times a year certainly has something to do with this number, but given what the Redskins threw out there to block them, this rate has to be at least somewhat encouraging.
At the end of the day, Van Bibber probably could have bumped the offensive line up a few spots, but it’s not something I’d get up in arms about. Like the blurb in his article stated, there are a lot of “if” factors that—if satisfied—could propel the Redskins’ starting five into something very good. But at this point, that’s all they are. Ifs. Perhaps the conversation could get more in depth when those ifs come into fruition, but for now, all we know is what we’ve observed. And at this point, it certainly has not been anything special.