Some say the game is won and lost in the trenches. I believe this was very true in our not-so-distant past, and still holds some water today, but not to the degree it used to be. Great lines no longer exist. Free agency, salary caps and supply vs. demand has extinguished this. Today, more emphasis is put on a franchise left tackle, and solid roll-players who stick together for years at a time. Yes, continuity now plays a big role in determining the value of an offensive line unit.
The Redskins have a solid, but not great, offensive line. They excel in run blocking, with the mastery of the ZBS being one of the key reasons. They also struggle a bit in pass protection, especially at right tackle, center and left guard. Some say a great Quarterback can mask many of the flaws of an offensive line, and I believe this is exactly what we saw last season with Robert Griffin at the helm.
The Problem: The main problem I see (as mentioned above) is at right tackle. We haven't had a solid right tackle since Jon Jansen left. We have tried the young approach (Heyer), the veteran approach (Brown), and the under-achiever (Polumbus). None have worked.
Center is the other weakness on the unit. For as good as Montgomery can be at making the calls, and setting the schemes, he can be equally as poor moving the defender in the run game, and taking on a power-rushing defender in pass-pro. He is not the liability that Polumbus is at right tackle, but he can easily be an up-grade candidate for the future.
Two other areas of concern are at right guard, where Kory Lichtensteiger has been solid, but not spectacular, and left guard, where Chris Chester, despite playing at a Pro-Bowl level last season, is getting up there in age. I see no reason Chester should be an immediate concern, as I feel he still has some good years ahead of him, but a replacement will need to be grommed for the future in the coming seasons.
The one good point is that we enter 2013 with the same group of core starters we have had on the roster for the last two seasons. Now, injury and suspension have shaken the unit up a bit in previous seasons, but unlike past seasons, under different coaching staffs, we are growing some continuity.
The Solution: I'd like to think we have some young players on this roster being groomed to take over key roles on the unit moving forward, and this season should be very telling as to how ready these players will be when called upon. Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus have the versatility to play both center and guard, and their maturation, and comfort level with the system in their second seasons will go a long way in helping to determine if they are the future of this team.
It becomes a little more cloudy at right tackle as Mike Shanahan has brought in two veterans (Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood) to compete with Polumbus this preseason. Backing up Trent Williams, we have second year pro Tom Compton. I believe Compton has all the tools necessary to be a quality right tackle for this team, but he will first have to show he's able to back up Williams, and do a good job doing so, before a switch to the right side is made. Outside of the players mentioned, we have a developmental candidate in the undrafted rookie Xavier Nixon out of the University of Florida. Not much is expected from Nixon this year, and some time on the practice squad, and in the weight room may benefit him greatly.
So as you can see, we do have some solid players, and continuity going for us, but eventually we will need to rely on young talent if we want to take that next step to become perennial contenders.
The question is, do we have that young talent already on this team, or will we need to build through the draft and/or free agency to remains competitive?