Bye week grades: Offensive line
Through seven games, the Redskins rank as one of the NFL’s most inconsistent teams—from week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter, heck, play-to-play. But at 3-4, they’re still in the thick of things as they catch a breather at the bye. It’s been an interesting couple of months, indeed, and over the next few days CSN Mid-Atlantic reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will hand out their first half grades, position-by-position.
Tandler: The right side of the line clicked into place in training camp when they moved top draft pick Brandon Scherff inside to guard and moved Morgan Moses up the depth chart at right tackle. Both are still learning under Bill Callahan and their play has been more competent than dominant. Left tackle Trent Williams is in his usual Pro Bowl form and at left guard Spencer Long is doing fine filling in for the injured Shawn Lauvao. Center has been a problem as Kory Lichtensteiger was not playing well before he was injured and replaced by Josh LeRibeus, who has been even less effective. The pass blocking has been excellent; Kirk Cousins has been sacked on only 2.9 percent of his drop backs. Run blocking has not been great, although there is plenty of film evidence that the poor performance in the rushing game over the last few weeks has been due to some bad reads and other mistakes by the running backs as much as blocking issues.
El-Bashir: My takeaway is that the future at this position (finally) looks bright but the group still has much work to do. Bill Callahan shaped an impressive unit in Dallas. And he’s now doing it here. Callahan’s biggest decision was a gutsy one and it came early on: he wisely identified Brandon Scherff’s strengths (and weaknesses) and moved the No. 5 overall pick to guard, where he’s starting to get comfortable. Then Callahan transformed Morgan Moses, who struggled as a rookie, from a project into a starting-caliber right tackle. After that, the veteran coach got Spencer Long, who was written off after a poor preseason, up to speed as a replacement for Shawn Lauvao, who was playing well when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Meantime, Trent Williams is doing what Trent Williams does. Which is to say he’s headed for a fourth straight Pro Bowl selection. In a span of a few months, the unit has gone from aging and underperforming to young and promising. There are, of course, concerns. Some significant ones, too. Although the unit’s pass protection has been solid (the eight sacks surrendered rank are third fewest), the run blocking hasn’t been up to par in recent weeks. Some of that can be attributed to the revolving door due to injuries—Long replacing Lauvao, Ty Nsekhe subbing for Williams, Josh LeRibeus stepping in for Kory Lichtensteiger—but it's also the result of poor technique and execution by the linemen and missed opportunities by the backs. Either way, 3.7 yards per attempt ain’t going to cut it.