Now that the Redskins effectively ended center Kory Lichtensteiger's season by placing him on the IR, it's worth looking back to see just how important his play was for Washington.
Through the first four games of the season with Lichtensteiger at center, the Redskins averaged more than 350 yards of total offense as the team went 2-2. The run game was also very effective, establishing an identity that Jay Gruden spoke of, averaging nearly 140 yards per game and controlling the time of possession.
In the fifth game of the season, an overtime loss in Atlanta, the Redskins run game started to truly struggle. That would prove to be Lichtensteiger's last game of the year, and at that point the veteran center was already playing through shoulder and neck injuries. Counting the Falcons loss, the Redskins have been wildly ineffective in the run game, rushing for just 172 yards in four games, an average of 43 yards per game, while limping to a 3-5 record.
Can all of that be attributed to the absence of Lichtensteiger? Of course not. But to understate his important would be naive. This week, as Washington moved Lichtensteiger to IR, the team announced the signing of veteran journeyman center Brian de la Puente, and now it appears he could go from the street to starter as soon as this week.
"I think we’re going to throw it at him, see what he can do, see how much he can pick up," Gruden said of de la Puente.
Gruden explained that the shotgun snaps of Josh LeRibeus, who took over for Lichtensteiger, are too inaccurate for the Redskins. Considering how much of the offense is based out of the shotgun, LeRibeus' snaps have clearly become a problem, and Gruden must be worried about the possibility of a turnover. Beyond the snaps, LeRibeus has also been a trouble spot for the run game.
"His blocking has been pretty good in the pass protection," Gruden said of LeRibeus. "You know, the run game, he’s had his share of issues. Everybody has, based on our run production."
Losing any starting offensive lineman hurts a team, obviously. The importance of a center though can be hard to see. Responsible for calls in protection as well as blocking and snapping the ball, the fall-off from a starter to backup may be more than originally expected.
How big of a loss was Lichtensteiger? Let us know what you think in the comments.