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One Big Idea: Re-configure the offensive line

Washington Commanders v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

First, let me be perfectly clear: Despite a good deal of venom from the fanbase, Washington’s offensive line hasn’t been terrible this year, particularly when it comes to pass blocking. For many viewers, “sacks = OL’s fault.” The reality is, this year in Washington has been an object lesson in “sacks as a QB stat.” That said, I believe with the talent on the team, the line can be better configured, which will be the subject of this piece.

This is the third in a series of articles, each looking at “One Big Idea” to implement in order to improve Washington’s outcomes, on a weekly, or occasional basis, as the inspiration strikes.

As stated above, the impression of many fans in Washington, and of most casual NFL observers outside the region, is that Washington’s offensive line is terrible.

Thankfully, there’s no need to squabble over the matter, debating subjective accounts of what various fans - most of whom are wildly unfamiliar play of the other 31 offensive lines in the league - think they saw watching the real-time broadcast, once, on Sunday afternoon.

At this point, there are at least three different services that rate offensive line play, each in their own consistent manner, week after week. And through six weeks, those services have Washington at the top of the middle of the pack, particularly in terms of pass protection.

So what’s the issue, why is Washington giving up so many sacks? I’ve written on that fairly extensively elsewhere, but data keeps pouring in week after week, corroborating my original assertion: There are a number of factors, but the QB is among the most important.

Hope springs eternal that Howell will get his timing issues cleaned up - and I expect that he will over the course of the season - but in the meantime, there’s a chance to improve his line as well.

For everything else that can be said about Washington’s offensive line, the one thing that is indisputable is that it’s been remarkably healthy this year. The line held - basically - the same configuration for the first five games: Charles Leno (LT), Saahdiq Charles (LG), Nick Gates (C), Sam Cosmi (RG), and Andrew Wylie (RT).

It was only under truly tragic circumstances - the loss of his unborn daughter - that Charles Leno missed his first game in over 7 seasons. In his stead, journeyman swing tackle, Cornelius Lucas stepped up to play left tackle against the Falcons and absolutely crushed it.

I’ve been one of Lucas’ biggest advocates for years, and even I was a bit surprised by the caliber of his play. That said, he has seemed to play better on the left side than the right side since he’s been in DC. It was actually Leno’s original signing, in 2021, that forced Lucas’ shift.

When Leno returns, he should get his spot at left tackle back, both because he’s been playing well there, but also because he has almost no experience on the right side.

My proposal, however, involves keeping Lucas in the line-up as well, but instead moving him to right tackle, to supplant Andrew Wylie, whose play has probably been the most inconsistent of the linemen so far this year.

For those who put stock in such things, Lucas’ Pro Football Focus grade at right tackle was around 70 over the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Wylie’s PFF grade at right tackle is currently 64.3. Throughout his career, Wylie’s play has generally been superior at guard, which is where he played his first three years in Kansas City.

This proposal sends Wylie to left guard, replacing Saahdiq Charles, who hasn’t been terrible this year, but whose position could be upgraded through the shift.

Sam Cosmi, whose permanent move to guard has been a success, stays where he is.

And, Nick Gates, who is still experiencing some growing pains, remains at center, and should be buttressed by improved guard play on his left shoulder. Charles remains an able depth piece on the interior, along with Chris Paul and Ricky Stromberg.

In my estimation, this configuration gets the best five players on the field, largely at their positions of greatest strength (though I’d argue Lucas is a better LT than RT). What do you think?

Poll

Which offensive line configuration would you like to see rolled out against the Giants?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Leno, Charles, Gates, Cosmi, Wylie
    (100 votes)
  • 52%
    Leno, Wylie, Gates, Cosmi, Lucas
    (919 votes)
  • 26%
    Leno, Wylie, Stromberg, Cosmi, Lucas
    (466 votes)
  • 3%
    Leno, Charles, Stromberg, Cosmi, Wylie
    (54 votes)
  • 12%
    Something else
    (213 votes)
1752 votes total Vote Now