In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.
In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
Will the Redskins make changes on the offensive line?
El-Bashir: To me, the Redskins’ O-line, at long last, has youth and potential on its side. Consider:
- Left tackle Trent Williams, 27, is a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the team’s highest paid player for a reason.
- Second-year left guard Spencer Long, 25, did not allow a sack after replacing Shawn Lauvao, 28, in Week 4.
- Rookie Brandon Scherff, 24, thrived at right guard after being kicked inside in training camp, earning All-Rookie Team honors.
- Second-year right tackle Morgan Moses, 24, had the odd slip-up in pass protection but was an effective run-blocker and performed solidly overall.
- And although the Redskins’ run game scuffled, the O-line did an excellent job protecting Kirk Cousins, who absorbed 26 sacks (20 quarterbacks were sacked more). In 2014, Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy and Cousins were sacked a total of 58 times.
So the big question, obviously, is what will GM Scot McCloughan and Co. do about the center position? Kory Lichtensteiger, who turns 31 in March and carries a $4 million cap charge in 2016, is an interesting case. He got off to a slow start and then suffered a neck/shoulder injury in Week 5 and was sidelined until the playoff game. But…Lichtensteiger’s value to the team was underscored by the struggles of his replacement, Josh LeRibeus.
As it stands now, Lichtensteiger is still the best center on the roster, and the savvy and football I.Q. that he brings to the lineup can’t be ignored. But with a load of starting-caliber centers available in this year’s draft, I would be surprised if McCloughan doesn’t invest a pick in this position. One other possibility: could Long slide over to center when/if Lauvao recovers from his injuries?
Tandler: Any general manager can tell when a player is performing at a high level and determine that no changes need to be made at his position. It’s also not a great challenge to identify a player who just doesn’t have the skills to play a position and decide to look for a replacement.
But the challenge comes when a player can do some things well but still has some holes in his game. That is where Scot McCloughan is when it comes to figuring out what to do a center and left guard. Both Kory Lichtensteiger and Spencer Long did some things well but left a lot to be desired.
Will McCloughan move on from them and invest either free agent dollars or draft picks to get players who can fill in starting on opening day in 2016? Or does he hold on for another year, believing that a healthy Lichtensteiger and another year of coaching at the hands of Bill Callahan for Long will bring their performances up to the level they need to succeed?
I don’t think that McCloughan is going to spend any serious free agent money on the line. Those of you thinking of Alex Mack coming in to play center can probably forget it. If the opportunity to upgrade the offensive line comes up in the draft McCloughan could well take advantage of it. But I don’t see any major shakeups brewing. Shaun Lauvao and Arie Kouandjio will provide competition in the interior of the line and Callahan and Jay Gruden will pick the best from the group to start. There are other areas, like the entire defensive side of the ball, that are in need of more attention than the offensive line.
25 Questions series
- Is McCoy the answer at backup QB for the Redskins?
- Should the Redskins try to keep Alfred Morris?
- Should the Redskins cut Andre Roberts?
- Will there be a surprise cap casualty?
- Will DeAngelo Hall return?
- Should the Redskins draft a quarterback?
- Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?
- Today: Should the Redskins make changes on the offensive line?
- Tomorrow: Should Pierre Garçon return?