Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take another position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2016 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others are have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. This much, however, is not in question: A player is not on the 53-man roster until it's finalized in early September. So who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Up today… Position: Center
On the roster: Kory Lichtensteiger, Josh LeRibeus, Austin Reiter
Likely to make the 53: Lichtensteiger
After the draft there was no shortage of reports that the Redskins would have drafted center Ryan Kelly of Alabama with their first-round pick had the Colts not taken him three picks before the Redskins went on the clock.
That led many to speculate that the Redskins were anxious to replace Lichtensteiger as the starting center and that his demotion was inevitable and perhaps even his release was likely. But two months after the draft it appears that Lichtensteiger is the leading candidate—perhaps the only candidate—to be snapping the ball when the Redskins take on the Steelers on September 13.
But the Redskins are wary of Lichtensteiger’s health. After going for three straight seasons without missing a game he was out for 11 games with a pinched nerve in his neck and shoulder. He was able to recover in time for the playoff game. But it does bring up the question of whether this was a one-time issue with injury or if it might become a chronic problem for him at age 31.
Regardless, it looks like the Redskins are going to ride him for as long as he lasts, for this season at least. But they want to make sure they have a solid backup plan, which leads us to the other two possible centers on the roster.
Battling for a job: LeRibeus, Reiter
When Lichtensteiger was out last year it was LeRibeus, playing center for the first time in his life, who filled in. Although there were no disasters, his shotgun snaps were inaccurate enough to detract the quarterback from focusing downfield and his blocking was subpar. He improved in both categories as the season went on but the coaches didn’t hesitate to insert Lichtensteiger back into the lineup. LeRibeus was signed to a one-year contract after briefly being a free agent but the trust in him seems limited.
Reiter was a seventh-round pick in 2015 and there was plenty of talk that the team was high on his prospects. But after they let him go in the final roster cut they let him sit on the street for three weeks before adding him to the practice squad. You usually don’t do that to players who are in your future plans. He has added some weight and will get his shot at making the team in training camp. It’s probably too early to call this a make or break year for him but if Reiter doesn’t make the 53 he might not be invited back to the practice squad.
They have been giving Spencer Long some work at center during the offseason program but he could end up being the starter at left guard. Trying him there had the feel of being more of a "break glass in case of emergency" option than any sort of real future plan. We will see.