Now that Chris Foerster, and his propensity for smaller quicker linemen, are gone, most fans expect drastic changes to the offensive line starting as soon as free agency opens, and ending with the NFL draft. The hiring of offensive line guru Bill Callahan should also mark a drastic change to the SIZE of the offensive linemen that the Redskins employ; something both he and Jay Gruden seem to agree upon.
Recent talk has centered around taking a top offensive tackle in the draft, either at pick 5, or in the much more preferred "trade back" scenario. Two bacon lovers, whos names surface the most, are Stanford's Andrus Peat, and Iowa's Brandon Scherrf. Both of theses massive men would fit the Gruden/Callahan mold for a bigger, nastier offensive linemen.
Currently on the roster we have Spencer Long, a big, strong offensive guard, who also fits the mold of the preferred style of linemen the staff is looking for. It's a forgone conclusion, to even the most casual observer, that Chris Chester is on his way out of DC, and most expect Long to step in(and up) to take his place. The third round draft pick, who will be entering his second season, played well late in the season, seeing time at right guard, and even a few snaps at left tackle. The versatility Long brings has some even suggesting a move to center.
But before we start talking about a move of Long to center, let's look at another possibility also stashed on the roster: Josh LeRibeus.
By now, everyone who is a regular on Hogs Haven knows my great desire to upgrade the center position. You probably also know that I have not been a big fan of Lichtensteiger at the position. Some will argue that he's been an upgrade to Monty, and for those people, I'll argue that you and I would have been an upgrade to Monty! You probably also know that I am a fan of LeRibeus. I was hoping he could win a starting job this past training camp, but for reasons unknown to me, and Redskins fans all over the planet, Foerster chose to stick with Chester, Lichtensteiger and Lauvao on the interior, eventhough it was easily seen that all three of these individuals struggled.
LeRibeus has the size(6'2" 315) and is much more suited to a power blocking scheme than he is to a pure zone scheme. He has a powerful base, good active hands, and a mean disposition. When he and I spoke last spring, I brought up the idea of him playing center, and although he told me he prefers guard, mainly due to his comfort level there, he said he would be willing to do whatever the staff wanted so he could see playing time. You can read my interview with him HERE.
Josh is classic drive-blocker, who can move larger men because of his base, leverage and motor. He showed the willingness on film to engage his man, and not let up until the whistle blew. Moreover, his functional football strength allows him to set his feet, and use smart hand placement to keep defensive tackles from getting inside his pads. He does a very nice job working to the second level, and although this is not something he'll be asked to do a lot of at center, it does show his short-area quickness and awareness. He's not a dancing bear in pass protection, but he does a very nice job of keeping his head on a swivel, and providing help where it is needed. The most important thing I've seen from him, is that he hold up very nicely in one-on-one matchups! LeRibeus is a phone booth type player, and this is exactly what we need in our center.
Maybe Callahan and Gruden will sit down and watch some tape of Lichtensteiger spending more time in the backfield than Alfred Morris, and realize enough is enough! Maybe they will see that a 290 pound center(although it was reported Lichtensteiger was up to 300lbs) is not going to get the job done in this league.
Vast changes to the unit are expected this offseason, but we can't expect miracles. Maybe an in-house candidate for the center position is looking the Redskins right in the face. It just may take a new offensive line coach to see what Foerster has been missing these last three seasons.
Come on Josh. For all of us here in Redskins Nation that are pulling for you - make this happen!