The offensive line is a big area of focus heading into 2014. What better person to have a chat with, than 2012 third round draft pick Josh LeRibeus.
Josh came into his rookie season with the ability to contribute as both a guard and center. He saw action in five games that season, and had much promise heading into the 2013 campaign, but he was inactive for all 16 games last season. With the offensive line in flux, and a new coaching staff in place, I decided to talk with one of the Redskins more promising young linemen on his experiences over the last two seasons, and what we can expect to see from him moving forward.
(Mark) - Josh, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. All the fans at HogsHaven are really excited to hear from you, and see what we can expect moving forward.
(Josh) - Yeah, no problem.
(Mark) - Are you pumped about the new staff?
(Josh) - I am. I can't wait to meet them.
(Mark) - Being a Texas guy, I imagine football was in your blood. At what age did you start playing, and when did it click that, hey, I may be pretty good at this?
(Josh) - At 7 is when I first started with my first pee-wee adventure, and I haven't stopped since. I started realizing my first year of varsity that these guys are good, and then you get going and start getting better, and next thing you know you start getting tons of college letters out the win-works, and you realize, man, this is really going to happen. I guess once you start getting all those letters, and coaches start calling, that's kind of when it clicks for you.
(Mark) - Were you always an offensive linemen growing up?
(Josh) - Always! I played a little defense in high school, but I remember in pee wee they had a little system in Dallas that if you weighed in at a certain weight, they put two dots on your helmet, and you couldn't do anything but offensive line. So that's what I ended up getting stuck in. They even tell you not to tackle a guy, and I'm like that's not fun. I kind of knew my role from that point on.
(Mark) - Do you have a nickname?
(Josh) - As far as nicknames go, I had a few in college. One that stuck was Ribeye. When they see my last name it's LeRib-e-us. People get that rib part stuck in their head, big guy, big piece of meat, Ribeye kind of fits them.
(Mark) - What about playing offensive line do you like the most?
(Josh) - I like most when we score. It's kind of nice, because your not an RG3 and getting all the media attention, so it's kind of nice and laid back, so when you score, you see on film what you did, and that's when you really get pumped.
(Mark) - If I asked one of your teammates to describe your playing style, what would they say?
(Josh) - (laughing) Honestly, I have no idea, but I try to be as aggressive as I can, but not to the point where I'm going to piss everybody off, but definitely play through the whistle every time.
(Mark) - Coming in as a rookie it was noted you had the ability to play both guard and center. Which position are you more comfortable with and why?
(Josh) - Definitely guard, mostly because you don't have to snap the ball while blocking your guy. It really is just about as simple as that. There is a lot less pressure too. You don't have to make all the calls, and I guess if there is a messed up call you can always just kind of relay that back on the center, like hey, he told me something else coach(laughing). It's definitely less pressure, but I just like guard.
(Mark) - If you were asked to play center, would you be open to that idea?
(Josh) - Oh yeah, no doubt, no doubt. I'd just have to cut the finger-tips off my gloves, and get used to those getting mangled again(laughing).
(Mark) - You came into training camp as a rookie in great shape. What did you do to prepare your body and mind for the type of mental and physical beating you would take as a first year player in the NFL?
(Josh) - That first week or two of camp; that's a different beast than anything you're going to get. There are really some things you can't prepare for, but just keeping on a workout regimen four times a week, and obviously not eating chicken wings every night or something ridiculous, but that's definitely key. But the next year I obviously didn't quite follow that protocol(laughing).
(Mark) - So what happened the following year?
(Josh) - I got..........Lackadaisical - that's a good word. I think I missed a workout or two, and I got like, ugh, this is not going to hurt, and everything just kind of snowballed from there.
(Mark) - You played in five games as a rookie, and I thought you showed very well at times. What did you take from that experience?
(Josh) - I think the biggest thing you get from the games is it is a different speed from practice. Your body just tells yourself you can do this. Obviously you just did it. It kinda gets that mental block out of your head. And from then it's just what you can work on. I watch film, and see things I can get better in. I feel like I have improved my game.
(Mark) - What did you learn from being inactive for all of 2013?
(Josh) - Don't take the off-season lightly! It will haunt you the entire year; that is for sure.
(Mark) - Some of the concerns fans had over the last two years revolved around your work ethic and conditioning. It sounds in your voice that you're passionate about football. What are you going to be doing differently this year than last year?
(Josh) - Well, right now I'm actually in my heavy workout regimen, doing six days a week, and trying to stay on a routine as best as I can. I've got a buddy who was a linemen with me in college who is working out with me. He's great. He mixes it up and everything. I woke up today, and was hardly able to walk with the amount of squats we did yesterday, so I know that's a good thing. I know if I feel like that I'm doing something right. And it's about just sticking on that routine and doing it. I've got the girlfriend helping me out. I'm right next to Central Market here, which is kinda like a Whole Foods, so it's much easier to go against the chicken wing route(laughing). Bits of chicken and veggies - if you beat yourself over the head enough, you'll finally like it(laughing).
(Mark) - What are you doing conditioning wise?
(Josh) - Right now it's a lot of quicker stuff. Lots and lots of ladder-drills. Help to get quick feet.
(Mark) - What can we expect to see from you in 2014?
(Josh) - The biggest thing is obviously getting leaner, and coming to camp in shape. I think that alone will go a long way. Coaches say, I see this guy is committing himself , he can do this. He's giving himself an opportunity. I'm working with an offensive line guy(once I can start walking again in the morning). He'll help to keep me sharp. Depending on what the coaches do, I feel I can really fit into any scheme. I'm really looking forward to it.
I had to ask Josh a few Redskins specific questions:
(Mark) - What was it like playing for coach Shanahan?
(Josh) - Shanahan, he was a great guy. He came across like a guy who always knew what was going on. He knew the game plan in his head by heart. He wasn't a huge talker. I didn't get to know him a ton personally, but from a football standpoint, he was just a great coach.
(Mark) - Do you miss Mike, or do you think the team needed a new direction?
(Josh) - I haven't had the chance to meet the new coaches yet, but it will definitely be different. It's something I am used to from college. The first year I was there they got rid of the first coach, and it's usually a pretty good thing. I'm really looking forward to it.
(Mark) - Who is the strongest linemen on the team?
(Josh) - The strongest linemen; that's probably going to be Trent. He's definitely a physical specimen - I think that's a good way to put it.
(Mark) - You had a better combine number than Trent on the bench press. If you went head-to-head, who would put up more at 225?
(Josh) - (laughing) Man, he's clearly improved from the combine; I can tell you that much. I can keep up with him for a little while, but he can get a couple more at the end though(laughing).
(Mark) - Describe to me the cohesion among the offensive linemen?
(Josh) - It's great. We definitely spend time together. We go out to eat a lot. In about a month, a few of us are going to the Caribbean to have a little week vacation, to help keep the bonding going.
(Mark) - If you had to pick one teammate to get your back in a bar-room brawl, who would it be?
(Josh) - I'm going to take the biggest, baddest looking guy there is. I'm obviously taking Trent with me every time(laughing). I don't think you'll get any arguments from that one.
(Mark) - Who is the class clown of the group?
(Josh) - Oh, that's Chester. He's always coming up with one-liners or something, and he's kind of across from me and Gettis, and OCCASIONALLY Gettis will have a momentary lapse, or will take a quick snooze or something, and Chris got a little gag gift together for him. He got him a neck-roll like on the plane to sleep with, and he got him some sun glasses and put some googly-eyes on them, to make sure it looks like he's awake(laughing). Yeah, that was great.
I now opened the interview up to some questions from the fans at HogsHaven:
(From Steve Shoup) - Are the coaches asking anything different this off-season from you in terms of preparation?
(Josh) - I haven't had any contact with them recently as to what their end goal was, but from the end of the season when Shanahan was still here, and this obviously goes across the board, it was Get Your Ass in Shape. They have a lot of confidence in me. They know I can play, but I think this is the last thing they expect from me.
(From HogHunter) - Are you more comfortable with a zone blocking scheme or a power blocking scheme?
(Josh) - I like both. I don't know if there is one better than the other. Zone blocking wears us big ole linemen down, but they both have their strengths and weaknesses. I'm excited for whichever direction. I think they said they were going to try and keep the zone scheme this year, although I'm not 100%. At SMU we had a zone play we run once or twice a game, then we'd run power the rest of the game. That's pretty much all we did every time we went out, and it worked well for us. A lot of pulls, and things like that. I liked it.
(From Scarlet) - Many of the fans at HogsHaven watched the offense line play from 2012 to 2013, and were surprised by the apparent drop-off in pass protection last season compared to 2012. What would you attribute this to?
(Josh) - I don't know if there is anything big you can attribute it to. I think the old saying "shit happens" is probably something here. I mean, it is the NFL. It's not an easy thing. I mean, I don't know. I felt like guys were clicking, and things were going well in practice. Obviously, film might say something else. We were keeping up with guys. There might have been a little drop-off, but I guess that just kind of happens sometimes.
(From Mike Berry) - Do you feel like you were given a real opportunity to compete for a starting job last camp?
(Josh) - I mean, obviously throughout the entire camp I spent trying to get my but back in shape before I could even think about that, but yeah, I feel like the opportunity was there. Clearly I didn't take advantage of that by the way I came in, but I guess I'll try to change things this year.
(From Captain_Amaze_O) - Conditioning aside, what do you feel you need to work on technique wise so you can earn a starting spot coming into 2014?
(Josh) - My feet are getting a lot better. I think the biggest thing for me is to shoot the hands on time. Lots of timing with that. Every time I did that in practice it was like night and day. You see the plays you didn't do it and it's a struggle, and when you do it, you just jolt them. Game over, you win once that happens. That's definitely one thing that helped me. When you can connect with the chest and your hands, you're going to win that battle every single time.
(Mark) - What kind of shape are you in right now, and what is your goal coming into camp?
(Josh) - I'm 328 right now. I want to try and get down to 315, or maybe even 310. We'll see how it goes. I imagine it feels a lot better than what I came in at last year.
(Mark) - What did you come into camp at last year?
(Josh) - A bit over 328(laughing).
(Mark) - What's the lightest you have ever played in college or the pros?
(Josh) - My senior year in college I was about 310, so that's about the lightest. I feel like I had a bit more strength at 315, so we'll see. I'll fight the battle to get there as fast as I can, and see how it goes.
(Mark) - Anything you would like Redskin's Nation to know about Josh LeRibeus?
(Josh) - The only question that needs to get answered is, will he come back in shape. I say YES! My legs can attest to that right now! And, I still have more than two months. I'm excited about this. I'm ready for this lean, mean fighting machine!
(Mark) - We're very excited to hear that. Myself, the fans are going to be thrilled to hear this, as we have a lot of hope for you. I think that was the question that was on most people's minds, and I feel you have answered that. We knew the ability was there. To hear that from you, and to see how dedicated you are is fantastic.
We all wish you the best!