Training camp is finally upon us and Dan and I continue the "Training Camp Primer" series. As we progress through the preseason we'll keep track of what guys we think are above and below the cut-line. Today we take a look at the Redskins 2012 offensive line going into camp.
The Starting Five
LT Trent Williams –
Dan: It isn’t of any surprise that Williams will be the starter and protector of Robert Griffin III’s blindside. What would be a surprise is if he can finally put everything together and become the anchor that this offensive line has desired for so long. In his first two seasons, Williams has teased Redskins fans with flashes of stellar play but coupled that with a few stinkers to even out what could have been a promising start to his career.
However, Williams may have turned a corner last year, as he put together a phenomenal string of games that was halted by his suspension. During that span, he posted dominant efforts against the likes of Miami, Seattle and the New York Jets. If Williams can pick up where he left off last season-- especially in regard to pass-protection-- Robert Griffin III will not have to worry much about looking over his shoulder.
Parks: "Silverback" has to take the next step this year and become a dominant left tackle in the NFL. He's shown some flashes of brilliance as you noted against the Dolphins, Seabags, and Jets but needs to become more consistent. There is obviously the off the field stuff, but Trent needs to control himself on the field though. I like a nasty edge for a player just like the next guy, but there's a line and at times Williams can cross it and garner some unnecessary penalties. Sooner or later you have to lose the "project" label.
LG Kory Lichtensteiger:
Dan: Like Williams, Lichtensteiger also appeared to be turning a corner last season, but his efforts were halted prematurely. Although in ‘Steiger’s case, it was by no fault of his own. Despite the promise he showed, the fact is that on a game-by-game basis, Lichtensteiger has been very up-and-down. Though he appeared destined for better in the beginning of last season, we just don’t know if it was sustainable given his history and how little we actually saw of him.
Also, factor in that coming off of a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus is nothing to scoff at. If he is not able to play at a high level out of the gate due to his health, we may get a glimpse of Josh LeRibeus or Adam Gettis sooner than later. At this moment, it would be foolish to write Lichtensteiger off, but he will certainly have a lot to prove coming out of the gate.
Parks: I think we need to temper our expectations with Licht. As you noted he did perform well last year but he's coming off serious, serious surgery. Can Licht be a quality starter in this league? Maybe. But he can also be the guy that the Broncos and Vikings cut a couple years ago. It doesn't help that he has a couple of young guns coming for him also.
C Will Montgomery:
Dan: Montgomery and Chris Chester were the only Redskins offensive linemen to play in every snap of the season last year, and the importance of continuity cannot be understated in the zone-blocking scheme. A fair share of struggles was had by Montgomery, especially in the form of pass-protection, which has to make RG3 fans sweat just a tad. It’s worth noting that it was Montgomery’s first full season at a new position, and with more focus placed at center and a full season of starting under his belt, it’s not out of the question to expect that improvements will come.
Parks: I'm one of the few that loved the Monty signing this offseason. Cam Newton greatly benefited from a veteran center and hopefully the same will be true for RG3. Of course Montgomery isn't close to the caliber of Kalil, but he can certainly help Griffin a lot more than any other lineman on the roster.
RG Chris Chester:
Dan: Even after drafting LeRibius and Adam Gettis, Chris Chester’s contract indicates that the Redskins would like him to be the present answer at right guard despite his struggles a season ago in a new scheme.
When the Ravens parted ways with Chester last offseason, it was the result of them deciding to become more reliant on the zone-blocking scheme, and Chester apparently did not fit into their plans. It appears that they were on to something.
According to Pro Football Focus, Chester had the worst run grade of any offensive guard in the NFL, and the only offensive lineman to have a poorer grade was Denver Broncos center J.D. Walton.
On the other side of the coin, Chester did do a respectable job in pass protection which he has done throughout his career. Chester has never been an elite run blocker, but a step in the right direction this season is likely now that he is more familiarized with Shanahan & Son’s offense.
But in all fairness, that’s mostly because "up" is the only direction to go from where he left off.
Parks: I agree with everything you said about Chester. At this point I think he's just a stop-gap to get us to 2013. He's certainly not an all-star, but he can hold down the fort in 2012.
RT Jammal Brown:
Dan: It’s well known at this point that the ShanAllen regime has put an emphasis on getting quality depth at all positions. However, this year there is not a ton behind an already shaky player who just can’t seem to get healthy. Maybe the added flexibility from yoga classes will help in that department a little, but despite my appreciation for stretchy-pants I’m not a yoga expert.
What I can tell you is that the lack of pursuit for an established free-agent tackle and the unwillingness to address the position before the sixth round of the draft tells me that Shanahan is content with Brown for the time being. That said, if Brown continues to struggle to get onto the field, I expect that approach to change drastically.
Parks: Somewhere Steve Shoup is trembling, but I have high hopes for Jammy Jam this year. I still think he can be a serviceable tackle in this league and can bridge us for another year or two. Like you said, the lack of interest in another free agent may be some sort of an endorsement, unless we just lost out on Demetress Bell?
Parks: Lee, coming from Tampa Bay, can act as an immediate replacement for Polumbus and will likely be the primary step in if a tackle goes down at this point.
Dan: The good thing about Brown’s health problems is that it got a lot of young reserves valuable game experience a season ago. Polumbus started three games at right tackle in Brown’s absence and even started at left guard versus Dallas, a position he was also thrust into while with Seattle. I like the versatility that Polumbus provides, but if he’s asked to spend a significant time in the starting lineup, then that’s probably an indication that the line is in trouble.
Parks: Let me be frank...Polumbus is terrible. This is guy is the punchline of Monday morning try outs and their is a reason the Broncos, Seahawks, and Lions all let him go. Maybe he is a serviceable back up? But I'd rather see Willie Smith or Compton be given a shot.
Dan: What do Andre Carter, Jason Pierre-Paul, Jared Allen and Trent Cole have in common? They are absurdly good in getting to the quarterback, correct. But there’s something else they share. These are the four guys that undrafted rookie Willie Smith was asked to block in succession once Sean Locklear went down 14 snaps after Trent Williams was suspended.
As expected, Smith struggled, but it’s worth knowing that he did not allow any pressures by Pierre-Paul, who was arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL last season. In the event Jammal Brown goes down, Smith is someone who could fare pretty well in his absence, and will likely get the break of not having to face the opposing team’s top pass-rusher.
Parks: People are really high on Smith since he hung tough last year, but it's extremely important to remember that he is still very much a project at this point. The future may be bright for Smith, but we have to let him progress and continue to learn the game as a whole. Hopefully the ECU product turns into a gem in a couple of years.
Dan: Essentially, Compton is 2012’s version of Selvish Capers; an encouraging late-round flier at a position that—nicely put—could stand to see some improvement. Unfortunately, Capers is no longer with the team, but I would be surprised if Compton follows in his footsteps anytime soon. He is an intriguing prospect who I think will make the cut, because at this point neither Brown nor Williams can be relied on to remain on the field for an entire season. Compton could come in handy down the road if things don’t play out perfectly.
Parks: You had to go all Selvish Capers on me? Admittedly I've only seen Compton play in his match up with Wisconsin last year. The South Dakota star held his own though and should be another good, developmental tackle for the Skins. My hope is he makes Polumbus expendable.
Dan: He’s already a fan favorite, and with a personality and appearance that is somewhere between John Blutarsky and Artie Lange, how could he not be? Coming out of the draft, there were concerns regarding LeRibeus’ speed and athleticism, but he is not going to be asked to singlehandedly manhandle hulking defensive tackles. He’s in a scheme that is new to him, but will get the best out of him. Obviously, Mike Shanahan believes the same thing since he used a third-round pick to get him.
Parks: I really think LeRib has the biggest bust potential out of anyone the Redskins drafted in 2012. How many of us went "WHO?" when he was drafted in the third round? Many have been quick to elevate him, but this is yet another guy that we have to let mature and not rush to a starting spot.
Dan: LeRibeus has stolen the show early, but I believe it will be Gettis that will be garnering the attention down the road. Already familiar with the zone-blocking system from his time at the University of Iowa, Gettis should be a lock for the roster, and it would not shock me to see him make the biggest push to become the newest member in the starting lineup sooner than later.
However, what he has in athleticism, he lacks in size, weighing in "only" at 293 pounds. If he can maintain that same explosiveness from his college tape with 10 or 15 extra pounds, he could be the long-term answer at right guard.
Parks: I really like Gettis' versatility and I'm interesting to see how he competes with LeRibeus in camp. I think in the short term that Gettis may look A LOT better than LeRib, but LeRib may have a higher risk/reward factor in the long term.
Dan: I’ll put it this way: If the front office was really confident in Maurice Hurt’s potential, I don’t think it would have invested third and fifth round picks in other guards during the offseason. He was a major liability in pass protection, and without visible improvement early on he could be ousted in favor of LeRibeus and Gettis.
Parks: Pile Movin' Mo! This is another guy that its going to be fun to watch in preseason. He needs to look light years ahead of the rooks to garner some playing time in my opinion, and I think he will. He certainly performed admirably when given an opportunity last year.
Dan: He started two games at center last season while Montgomery shifted to guard, and performed well in something of an emergency situation. He would be good depth to have, but I think it heavily depends on what the coaching staff wants to do with LeRibeus. If they keep "Ribeye" at guard I think Cook is safe, but there’s been talk of shifting him to center. If that happens, consider Cook cooked.
Parks: Cook is interesting, but I still think he retains a spot on this squad because he may be the only other guy that knows the offense and can run the center position efficiently at this point. It's important to remember what a cerebral position center is.
Destined for the Practice Squad:
C- Grant Garner