After struggling at times in recent years, the Redskins’ offensive line has been among the team’s biggest assets through this season's first four games.
- The Redskins rank No. 1 in rushing yards with 139.5 yards per game.
- The running backs are averaging 4.4 yards per carry, the third best mark in the league.
- Kirk Cousins has been sacked five times. That total is tied for the fourth fewest.
- Through four games last season, Redskins quarterbacks had been sacked eight times.
Entering the season, the retooled line was among the Redskins’ biggest concerns, primarily because of the inexperience on the right side. But veteran Coach Bill Callahan has helped tackle Morgan Moses and rookie guard Brandon Scherff get up to speed quickly and the duo has performed solidly, as has second year guard Spencer Long, who's replaced an injured Shawn Lauvao.
“I think they’ve been very solid,” Coach Jay Gruden said this week. “We lost Lauvao [and] Spencer Long stepped in and played well. Trent has been excellent at left tackle. Kory Lichtensteiger has been solid at center, making all the calls and communicating. Brandon, for a rookie, and Morgan, for only his second year, those two guys [are] playing together for the first time [and] I think [they] have done some excellent things. I feel like those guys are just going to continue to get better and better. We’re excited about the way they are playing.”
Gruden added: “I think they’ve done a good job. I think there are still things we can improve on, no question about it. We’re working on that every day. I think we’re No. 1 in rushing. I think our third down conversion rate is right around 50 percent, which is excellent. And we’ve only given up four sacks, four and a half, if you want to say five you can–and we’ve thrown the ball quite a bit.”
Of the five sacks yielded this season, ProFootballFocus.com blamed the line for only three. PFF says Lichtensteiger has allowed two sacks, Lauvao permitted one while the others belonged to Cousins and running back Chris Thompson.
"I think they've been outstanding,” Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay said. “They've protected the quarterback well. I think we've been able to run the football efficiently. So, they're playing at a high level right now. And I thought it was really encouraging to see–missing Shawn Lauvao last week [and] the way that Spencer Long stepped in in his real, first, big-time action in a game, that really mattered. I thought he responded to the challenge.”
McVay also praised the impact made by Callahan, particularly with the young linemen. Since training camp, Callahan, who was hired in the offseason, has often kept his unit on the field after practice for additional work on skills and technique—and it certainly seems to be paying off.
“I think Coach Callahan does an excellent job with those guys,” McVay said. “We've got some veteran leadership up front with guys like Kory [and] Trent that do an excellent job keeping everybody in line. And then the young three guys that are playing for us are continuing to get better each and every week.”
On Sunday, the Redskins’ line will be tested by a Falcons’ defense that’s been good against the run (85.3 yards per game, which ranks 5th) but not so spectacular against the pass (305 yards per, 30th). Atlanta’s pass rush has also mustered only five sacks, which is tied for the second fewest in the league.