It’s rare for an NFL coach to forthrightly talk about roster needs, but Jay Gruden has been open about the offensive line issues the Redskins face, and on Friday he opened up even more.
Asked directly if the Redskins anticipated signing a veteran offensive tackle, Jay was unabashed:
I hope so
These were the first three words that came out of his mouth.
He finished up his answer to the question by saying:
I do anticipate bringing a veteran guy in here at some point.
Well, okay then.
The rest of the press conference gave a lot of information about why that is necessary. With Trent Williams holding out, the first guy who the Redskins should be able to look to to keep his finger in the dike is Geron Christian, who was drafted last year to provide depth at tackle for Washington. Even if Williams were not holding out, presumably the plan was always for Christian to take over the swing tackle role left vacant by the departure of Ty Nsekhe to Buffalo.
But Geron Christian is recovering from a torn MCL suffered in Week 10. Asked about Geron’s progress and outlook for a ‘sophomore leap’, Jay didn’t sound very optimistic.
Geron, now, he got hurt. He got to training camp, and he got a little bit of work early, and then he got hurt, I think it was [against] Tampa Bay. So, missed a considerable amount of time there and then recovered from the injury. We’ll see where he’s at, but we want to make sure that he’s got full strength, mobility, change in direction, and can handle the power once we get the pads on before we get him out there.
That’s not the biggest show of enthusiastic support I’ve ever heard from Jay.
And the concern runs deeper than just ‘plugging’ the left tackle position. After all, the Redskins were already trying to ‘plug’ the left guard position. Again, Gruden sees the development of Geron Christian as being important to the ability of the offense to prepare for the season:
It depends on where Geron is at. We have to get him up-to-speed, see where he’s at physically – if we feel like he can handle it. You know, with Wes Martin, Zac (Kerin), and some of these other guys, we’re trying to obviously in training camp try to get these guys schooled-up in multiple positions because when you dress seven on game day some guy might have to play tackle, guard, and center. At the end of the day, we would like to have a solid five offensive linemen that we know who are playing where on the first play of the game. Right now, we do not have that.
Back at the Spring Meeting and then during OTAs and minicamp, Jay was almost laughing at the idea that he might not have enough healthy linemen to run training camp.
I get the feeling he’s not amused now.
With about six weeks to get ready for the season, the Redskins are a mess at offensive tackle. Ty Nsekhe is playing for the Bills. Trent Williams is holding out. Geron Christian is trying to return from a serious injury. Ereck Flowers was a disaster in his previous stints as an NFL tackle.
Jay Gruden said today that he both hopes and expects to sign a veteran tackle ahead of the season. That’s great! I can’t think of a higher priority for the Redskins roster right now than solving the offensive line puzzle.
The clearest answer to the problem, of course, would be to get Trent Williams into camp and back with the team as soon as possible.
Without really knowing what is driving his holdout, however, it’s hard for me to assess how realistic that is.
Some journalists and fans, despite not really knowing what is going on between Williams and the Redskins, advocate trading him away for draft picks or playing hardball with him to ‘teach him a lesson’. Neither of these courses of action will help the Redskins get ready for the 2019 season, which needs to be Job One. The team should be working to mend fences with Trent and get him into camp as soon as they can. Only if the damage in the relationship is irreparable should they give up on Willliams. If that becomes the case, then they need to act quickly to replace him with a capable veteran so the coaches can get on with the job of teaching and refining the offense, but the front office should be looking for veteran depth regardless, because — right now — the Redskins don’t even have a capable, healthy backup.