This week, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will examine some of the more critical position battles you'll see on the Redskins over the next few months.
First up? Left tackle.
Saahdiq Charles, Geron Christian, Cornelius Lucas
The Redskins drafted Charles in the fourth round to be the left tackle of the future, but the question for the former LSU Tiger is if he’s ready for the job. Charles dealt with personal issues in college at Baton Rouge and got suspended multiple times while at LSU.
He has elite size and athleticism, though, and the Redskins did plenty of due diligence before selecting Charles.
Here's what VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith said about the 20-year-old after the draft: “He’s a high-talent player. Tremendous talent, tremendous upside. Obviously, he was there in the fourth round for a reason. We dove into this kid's character in a big way. We feel very confident in the kid, we’re comfortable with everything, the research that we’ve done. And we’re really excited for the kid, I know he is too. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, he understands why he was taken where he was.”
So it’s clear Charles is the plan for the long term, and while the Redskins feel confident in the person, the layoff from coronavirus could make a big impact. Charles could have definitely used the offseason at Redskins Park. Every rookie needs that time to acclimate to life in the NFL, but it's particularly beneficial on the offensive line.
If Charles isn’t ready early, Lucas will be. He started eight games last year in Chicago and wasn’t great but was serviceable. He could be the placeholder until Charles is ready.
The other name here is 2018 third-round pick Geron Christian. Put simply, he hasn’t been very good in two seasons in Washington, but he was always expected to be a developmental prospect. This is the year the development needs to be visible. Word is Christian added upper body strength, which was a big need, but he better be ready to compete right away. Usually a third-round pick gets plenty of time to figure things out, but with Ron Rivera in charge and an almost completely overhauled coaching staff and front office taking over with him, Christian’s draft status won’t save him if he struggles.
JP’s prediction: If Charles shows up in shape, it’s his job. Rivera has said repeatedly he’s not scared to play rookies and Charles has the most talent at the position.
The winner of this battle is either going to be a guy with his fifth organization in the NFL, a rookie fourth-rounder, or a 2018 third-rounder who hasn't done anything meaningful yet in the league. The post-Trent Williams world is officially here, and it's cold, dark and spooky.
Taking Charles in the fourth round, just minutes after trading Williams away, was absolutely the right move by the Burgundy and Gold. Of course, there's going to be a certain amount of risk whenever you take on someone with multiple suspensions in college, but Washington was correct to accept that risk.
Now, the Redskins at least have someone they can point to and say, "That's our Plan A for the next few years." Before Charles, they couldn't do that. But will Charles also emerge as Plan A for 2020?
While fans should definitely file away the fact that Adrian Peterson mentioned working out with Christian this spring and seeing "tremendous improvement" out of the lineman — Peterson isn't the type to hand out hollow compliments — this still feels like a two-man race between Charles and Lucas.
If those two enter training camp and the rookie is clearly behind the vet, then Lucas should be the man to start in Week 1. This franchise needs to see what it has in Dwayne Haskins, and therefore it needs to protect him as best as possible.
However, if Charles is at least close to what Lucas is, then Rivera should go with him from the beginning. Yes, the Redskins want to win this season, but the real goal is to figure out whom they can sustainably win with for many more seasons to come.
Pete's prediction: Charles is going to beat out Lucas, who's a fine journeyman but not in the team's thoughts beyond 2020. Charles has the potential to become a formidable left tackle, and Rivera should start that process ASAP.
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