Quick Links

Redskins’ young O-line has picked up the 'skill and art' of pass blocking


Redskins’ young O-line has picked up the 'skill and art' of pass blocking

The Redskins have made a remarkable turnaround from last year in one important category.

In 2014 they allowed 58 sacks, the second-worst total in the NFL. The quarterback was sacked on 9.6 percent of pass dropbacks leading to 412 yards in losses. It’s tough to keep drives going like that.

This year, it’s a different story. 

“The offensive linemen have done a phenomenal job,” said Kirk Cousins. “I think we’ve given up 26 sacks, down from 55-plus last year; I think it was more than that. If we could stay under 30 after this game against Dallas, I think that would be a big accomplishment to almost cut our sack total in half, which is a credit to those guys.”

Cousins, who has taken every snap at quarterback this year, has been sacked on 4.7 percent of his dropbacks and the sacks have cost 186 yards.

While Cousins gives credit to the offensive line for the decline in sacks, the quarterback releasing the ball rather than taking a sack has a lot to do with it. This is a particular strength of his; last year his sack rate was 3.8 percent, considerably better than those of Robert Griffin III (13.4%) and Colt McCoy (11.7%) while playing behind the same offensive line.

But the line certainly deserves its share of credit. And their performance has been remarkable in light of their lack of experience. Since Week 6, the Redskins have started four linemen who are in their first seasons as NFL starters. Rookie Brandon Scherff and second-year player Morgan Moses were installed at right guard and tackle, respectively, in training camp. Center Josh LeRibeus and left guard Spencer Long came in to replace injured players. Their ability to pick up the intricacies of NFL pass blocking has impressed the lone veteran in the group, left tackle Trent Williams.

“Pass blocking is a skill and it’s an art,” said the sixth-year tackle. “It’s something where you have to do repetitions. There’s no easy way about it. Run blocking has a lot to do with attitude and sometimes how you physically match up with the guy in front of you. Sometimes a guy might just be naturally better at run blocking because of his physical makeup. Pass blocking is definitely not easier than run blocking.”

Williams has been instrumental in Moses’ development, showing him the ropes as he learned the game at the NFL level. He seems to be particularly impressed with his progress and that of the rookie Scherff, the fifth overall pick in the draft last spring who was a tackle until being moved inside in August.

“Morgan has extremely long arms and great feet,” said Williams. “He’s meant to be a great pass blocker. He works, he put tools in his toolbox, and he developed that skill. It’s the same way with Brandon. He’s used to blocking on the edge so moving him down inside is a little bit easier transition for him. That’s just a simple case of those guys being really good and having all of the tools that it takes to be a good pass blocker.”

The line still needs to develop its run blocking; the Redskins are 30th in the NFL with an average of 3.6 yards per carry. But for right now, with Cousins passing well enough to carry the team, being good at one “art” has been helpful. 

Quick Links

Three Monday visitors to Redskins Park could determine team's free agency strategy going forward

USA Today Sports Images

Three Monday visitors to Redskins Park could determine team's free agency strategy going forward

The Redskins are having three visitors today in Ashburn. Depending on how they go, they could mostly be done with free agency or still pushing to fill some needs.

They have been making an effort to hire one of the top defensive linemen on the market since before free agency actually started. They had former Jet Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit last Tuesday, something they could do because Wilkerson had been released. The team put on a good sales push that lasted most of the day, but Wilkerson left without a deal. Shortly after he left he decided to sign with the Packers.

They made runs at Dontari Poe and Sheldon Richardson, but they signed with the Panthers and Vikings, respectively. The prospects were looking slim until the Colts decided to cut Jonathan Hankins on Saturday. He weighs 320 pounds and turned 25 on January 1. Hankins probably isn’t going to make any All-Pro teams or post double-digit sacks, but he will help you stop the run for the next half-decade, at least. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s the Redskins’ biggest defensive problem for the last several seasons.


Hankins is visiting today and he is someone the Redskins would very much like to sign. The other two visitors may be fallback plans.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is a veteran who can play in the slot. That is what the Redskins are looking for but Scandrick does not appear to be their first choice. Last week they had former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in for an extended visit that included a physical. However, they could not come together on money. Scandrick, who has missed time with injuries in each of the last two years, could be an alternative to Rodgers-Cromartie or it could be that he is being used to put some pressure on the Redskins’ preferred choice.

Edge rusher Pernell McPhee is also clearly a second choice. The Redskins have an offer on the table for Junior Galette to return. He tweeted yesterday that the Redskins were the best fit for him but that the money “has to be fair.”

McPhee has played well but injuries have limited his impact the last two years. He started the 2016 season on injured reserve with a knee injury and he missed a total of seven games. Last year he missed three games with shoulder and knee injuries.


The Redskins likely are interested in McPhee for the right price. That price is considerably less than the $7 million he was going to make from the Bears this year before the let him go on February 26. There does not seem to be a hot market for his services; he has been a free agent for three and a half weeks and this is his first reported visit.

The Redskins would rather bring back Galette, who was much more effective as a pass rusher last year than his three sacks would indicate. But the price has to be right for both sides and apparently there is some work to be done towards working that out.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Quick Links

Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' offensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

Associated Press

Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' offensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 19, 38 days before the NFL draft.  

Free agency notes and nuggets

Looking at the 2018 depth chart—offense

The Redskins are likely to make a few more free agent acquisitions and there is the draft, but the depth chart is beginning to settle in. Let’s take a look at where the offensive side of the ball stands now. The defense is up tomorrow

Quarterback: Alex Smith
Backups: Colt McCoy

The only question here is if the Redskins will draft a late-round project quarterback to develop as the backup. McCoy is in the last year of his contract and he may not be back in 2019.

Running back: Samaje Perine
Backups: Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, draft pick

This is an area to watch. Thompson could end up being the only carryover if they get a draft pick who can start and decide to keep 2017 late-season addition Kapri Bibbs or if they find another veteran. They also could go with only three running backs.

Wide receivers: Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder
Backups: Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick

They may not carry six, so Harris, Davis, and Quick might battle it out for two spots. It’s possible that they will put a draft pick into the mix as well.

MORE REDSKINS: The Redskins week that was

Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

As of right now, this appears to be one of the few position groups you can write in with a Sharpie. If the Redskins are going to be better in 2018, a lot of the improvement will have to come from improvement of 2017 draft picks like Sprinkle. If he can develop into a solid blocker and a moderate receiving threat he will be an asset.

Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Arie Kouandjio, C Chase Roullier RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: T Ty Nsekhe, G/T Tyler Catalina, G Kyle Kalis, T T.J. Clemmings

Kouandjio is a placeholder at left guard for the moment. He was solid pass blocking but struggled in run blocking in six starts in injury fill-in duty. I think that if they bring in another interior O-lineman in free agency or in the draft, Roullier will remain at center. I think Jay Gruden likes the way he is developing there and wants to continue.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Tandler on Twitter


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 28
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 130
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 174

In case you missed it