Offensive line replacements are needed in Washington - we all know this. The first move to improve the front five could have already taken place this week when the Redskins claimed center J.D. Walton off waivers from the Denver Broncos.
I had targeted Walton as a possible free agent signing his off-season if he checked out medically. The former Baylor Bear, who played with RG3, would be a huge upgrade over Will Montgomery.
Walton was drafted by Denver in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He started all 16 games his first two seasons for the Broncos. Last year in week four, he suffered a broken ankle, and was placed on injured reserve. He hasn't played since. The Broncos did activate him a few week ago, but he did not return to the starting lineup. He was subsequently released, and promptly claimed by the Redskins. He is set to become a free agent this offseason.
What are the Redskins getting in Walton:
At 6'3" and 305 pounds, the 26 year old Walton brings a tough disposition to the Nation's Capital. He was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft(80th overall pick). He excelled during his time at Baylor, and was a key cog in the program's recent success. As a senior, he was a finalist for the Rimington Award(given to the nation's top center), was voted first team All-American by the Associated Press, was the team's co-offensive MVP, and played in the 2010 Senior Bowl. Many services had him ranked as the second best center in the draft behind Florida's Maurkice Pouncey.
I have studied both Walton and Montgomery on film, and a few things stood out to me. First, Walton seems much better at communicating blitzes and defensive line formations. He excels at keeping his head on a swivel and picking up free blitzers, or helping another linemen on a double team. He also does a nice job on his peel-back blocks, even showing the ability to get to the C-gap to pick up a free defender. Second, Walton is much better at the point of attack against larger defenders. He has a very solid hand punch, uses his leverage, and doesn't allow defenders into his body. For Montgomery, this has been a major issue. Walton also sets his base both quicker and stronger than Montgomery is able to do. It is this attribute that allows him to get a better push in the run game, and protect better in pass protection. Finally, I see a mean streak when I watch Walton play(something I have never seen from Montgomery). He blocks with leverage, attitude, and plays through the whistle.
Overall, I really like this move by the Redskins. It's like going to a car dealership to test drive a quality, certified, pre-owned vehicle, and after the extensive test drive is over, the salesmen says to you, why don't you take the car home for the weekend and make sure it fits in the garage. The family likes it, and your mechanic gives it the thumbs up. The Redskins now have a chance to test drive Walton for a few games and see if he checks out medically. If he does, it could lead to an extension for the 26 year old center, who could become an integral part of our offensive line moving forward.