The Redskins may be looking for a new center as they put the prospects at the NFL Combine under the microscope this week. Then again, they might have their future man in the middle on the roster already.
Last year center was not a strong point for the Redskins, to say the last. Kory Lichtensteiger, who will turn 31 next month, started the season and struggled before a neck injury sidelined him for the last 11 games of the regular season. He returned for the playoff game. Lichtensteiger is under contract for two more years with a cap charge of $4.05 million this season.
In the interim the job belonged to Josh LeRibeus, who has issues blocking and scattered his shotgun snaps back to Kirk Cousins with alarming regularity. He is a free agent and the prospects for his return are unclear.
What are the alternatives? “We have Austin Reiter on our roster right now,” said Jay Gruden when asked about the position. “We drafted him in the seventh round last year. He did some good things in practice.”
Reiter was cut before the season started and he was on the street until the Redskins brought him back, adding him to the practice squad in Week 4.
Reporters can’t watch practice during the season so nobody can verify the “good things” that Reiter did. At 6-3, 296 might be a touch undersized for the power-blocking scheme the Redskins want to emphasize. But the word around Redskins Park is that the coaches like his potential so he will get a shot at sticking around.
A player who many thought might be an in-house possibility at center is Spencer Long, who started 13 games at left guard last year. But Gruden threw some cold water on that idea.
“Spencer, we tried to do that [have him practice at center] a little bit throughout the season in practice,” he said. “But he has a ways to go. His snaps are a little bit off right now. That’s not something you want to go into a game with if you’re not sure about the snaps. We already figured that.”
One center the Redskins could take a long look at in Indianapolis is Jack Allen of Michigan State. Allen, who was selected as Sparty’s captain over quarterback Connor Cook, lacks ideal size at 6-1, 294 but the former high school wrestler is tough in the trenches and he knows how to use leverage and angles.
“I’m not as tall as any of them but I think I’m a pretty tough football player,” Allen said at the NFL Combine this week when asked what sets him apart from other O-linemen in the draft. “I’m physical on the field. I work pretty hard. I try to pride myself on being one of the hardest working guys in the room. Just toughness, really.”
Sounds a lot like what Scot McCloughan said at the Senior Bowl last month. “I don’t need the biggest, the fastest, the prettiest,” he said. “I want a football player.”
Allen, a two-time All-American, is very likely to be available when the Redskins pick in the third round and he could even last until the fourth.