The Dallas Cowboys had arguably the best offensive line last season. They opened holes for rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, and helped keep Dak Prescott fairly clean. Most anyone who watched the game of football will tell you they had the best unit in the NFL in 2017.
The Redskins offensive line, however, was not too far behind.
The unit, which consists of left tackle Trent Williams, left guard Shawn Lauvao, center Spencer Long, right guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Morgan Moses is showing why they merit consideration for the best offensive line in the NFL heading into 2017.
Below are some categories where I feel this unit really stands out:
The Redskins offensive line is massive. They average 6'5" 325 across the front. To compare, Dallas' line averages 6'4" 308. Both teams run a power blocking scheme, with a bit of zone mixed in. Despite the size, this unit is extremely athletic, with Williams, Scherff and Long being some of the better athletes in the league for their respective positions.
The Redskins do not have a starter who is 30 yet (Shawn Lauvao will turn 30 in late October). The average age of the unit is 26.8 years old. Four out of the five current starters are in their prime, with Long, Scherff and Moses having just entered it.
This unit will return all five starters in 2017. In 2016, Spencer Long was the only new starter of the group. Just as important, this is year four in Jay Gruden's offense, and year three under the guidance of offensive line guru Bill Callahan.
This unit plays with a mean streak. Trent Williams is one player no one in the league wants to mess with. "Silverback " certainly personifies his nickname. Third year guard Brandon Scherff may be the strongest Redskin, and his mean streak makes him an opposing force for opponents. Long and Lauvao are both players who are known to play through the whistle, and Moses, the Gentle Giant of the bunch, isn't afraid to mix it up and come to the aid of a teammate when needed.
Aside from the above measurables, which certainly separate this unit from others around the league, we need to examine some cold, hard stats!
Football Outsiders grades every team's offensive line performance based on a few key metrics in both run blocking and pass protection. You can read the article for 2016 grading Here.
As you can see in the chart posted in the Football Outsiders article, the Redskins offensive line ranks 6th overall in run blocking, and 3rd in pass protection. for comparisons sake, the Cowboys ranked 5th and 13th respectively.
The running backs yards per carry sit at 4.67, which is a very respectable stats (the NFL average is 4.16), but what really stands out is the Redskins power success - which is percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Here, the Redskins ranked tied for 5th in the NFL, coming in at 72%. Why this stat is important is that these are often times in games when the offense lines up and says to the defense, "stop me if you can". As you can see, defenses didn't do a good job of stopping the Redskins in 2016.
Another eye-opening stat is the Stuffed Rank. This is defined as the percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage (least often being #1, most often being #32). The Redskins ranked 3rd in this category.
Now some of these stats can be attributed to a team having a dynamic runner, but as most Redskins fans will attest, we are not in this group. Rob Kelley and Matt Jones are very average NFL running backs, and for as electric as Chris Thompson can be, he's really not a between-the-tackles type of runner. This leads one to believe that the offensive line is responsible for many of these stats.
Pass protection is a combination of both an effective front five, and the quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly. The Redskins gave up just 23 sacks last year, and had an adjusted sack rate of 3.9%, which was good for 3rd in the NFL. This metric takes into account sacks(plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down,distance and opponent.
Based on the information in this article, how would you rank the Redskins offensive line coming into 2017?