I'm not going to waste any time with some preamble - let me just get to the point. We have too many damn guards on our roster! There, I said it, and you know what; it makes me feel better!
When your team lacks two of the more important positions on the offensive line(center and right tackle), yet has a plethora of probably the easiest position in all of the NFL to fill, it makes even the most loyal fans question the roster.
As as it currently stands, we have veterans Chris Chester, Shawn Lauvao, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Maurice Hurt, Mike McGlynn, Tevita Stevens and rookie Spencer Long. Lichtensteiger has played guard in his stint with the Redskins, and although he was moved to center this year, he could still be viewed as a guard. So, not counting Kory, that is eight players fighting for two spots.
The Changing of the Guard:
The Redskins had one of the worst interior offensive lines in the NFL in 2013. It wasn't much better in 2012, when the Redskins won the NFC East, but the play of the unit was masked by the dynamic running and throwing of Robert Griffin III, the deception of the read-option, and the tough running of Alfred Morris.
The names remained the same in 2013, but the results got significantly worse. The true colors of players like Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery and even Chris Chester came to the forefront, as a hobbled RG3 could no longer mask their deficiencies.
The focus in the 2014 offseason should have been fixing the issues up front, and to a point it was. The Redskins signed Shawn Lauvao, Mike McGlynn and drafted Spencer Long to help stop the sieve that was the interior line, but neglected to find immediate, quality replacements at center and right tackle respectively.
The changing of the guard is upon us, but should the changing have come by adding even more guards to an already crowded position?
Where's the Beef?
The 2013 Redskins must have had the smallest interior offensive line in the NFL. Starting guards Kory Lichtensteiger(284 lbs), Chris Chester(309 lbs) and center Will Montgomery(305 lbs) were often outweighed by defensive linemen who also happened to be stronger and quicker too. This was a recipe for disaster from the start.
Montgomery and Lichtensteiger often found their way into our backfield, being constantly pushed back in both the run and passing game. Chester wasn't quite as bad, but he was nowhere near his 2012 form.
New players who were brought in to compete are noticeably bigger. McGlynn is a hefty 6' 4" 325 lbs. Lauvao tips the scales at 6' 3" 315 lbs. The rookie Long stands 6' 5", and weighs 320 lbs. Can this new look offensive line get better production than it's predecessor? Will a new interior line even come to fruition, or will players like Lichtensteiger and Chester remain entrenched along the interior?
If it's Competition you Want, it's Competition You'll Get:
Competition brings out the best in most players. This would be extremely hard to realize under the dictatorship of Mike Shanahan, as his propensity to play "his guys" was seen over the last three seasons. What other team in the NFL would have trotted out Will Montgomers, Kory Lichtensteiger and Tyler Polumbus week after week?
The hope of Redskins fans centers around the feelings than new head coach Jay Gruden will make it an open competition this training camp for starting positions. There is a fear however, that hold-over offensive line coach Chris Foerster will have some of "his boys", that may end up having an edge due to seniority, and familiarity with his zone blocking scheme.
Was it Foerster or Shanahan who called the shots on the offensive line? Only time will tell, but for the sake of our football team, let's hope it was the latter.
In conclusion, the play of our front five needs to drastically improve. Adding a third round rookie offensive tackle, who by all accounts is a long way from being able to start, isn't going to be much of a help in 2014. Moving Lichtensteiger to center is a move many are questioning. He was abused as a guard, and what could possibly make anyone think the same will not happen at center.
The addition by subtraction of Will Montgomery will be a breath of fresh air for those offensive line savvy fans who saw through his suspect play over the last three seasons, but will Kory be any better? Could he be worse?
Can Chester regain his 2012 form, or would it be better to cut ties, and let a younger player battle opposing defenses? What will happen to young players like LeRibeus, Gettis and Hurt? Are they a failed product of the Shanahan regime? Was choosing a player like Spencer Long in the third round a mistake, given all the bodies we currently have at the position? Should the Redskins have attempted to upgrade center and right tackle in free agency, instead of counting on incumbents?
All these questions and more should be answered within the next few months. Until then, I leave you with this philosophical thought:
In Science they say the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. In Philosophy, they argue the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts, and as Redskins fans, we should hope the latter is true when we are looking at the 2014 offensive line. However, my vision of the whole is flawed, because I see too many question marks surrounding many of the individual pieces.