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Redskins 2017 roster battles: O-line mostly set, but could competition emerge at left guard?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: O-line mostly set, but could competition emerge at left guard?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

Left guard

The contenders:

The incumbent is Shawn Lauvao, a seven-year veteran who started 14 games last year. He struggled from time to time, notably against the Cardinals when he gave up a game-turning sack and strip to Calais Campbell. Lauvao is in the last year of the four-year deal he signed as a free agent in 2014 and he costs $5 million against the salary cap. Third-year guard Arie Kouandjio is the challenger. The 2015 fourth-round pick started two games last year when Lauvao was injured. He looked lost against the Browns in Week 4 but he recovered and played better against the Eagles in Week 14.

And the winner is . . .

Tandler: I see a very strong likelihood that Lauvao starts against the Eagles in Week 1. It seems that Jay Gruden trusts Lauvao, perhaps more than his level of play warrants. One indication of this is the fact that the team did not go after a viable challenger for Lauvao in free agency. In the draft, the only O-lineman they took was sixth-rounder Chase Roullier, who is going to be spending his time learning to back up at center and both guard spots, not challenging for a starting job. That leaves Kouandjio, who didn’t appear to be ready last year when he got the chance. Lauvao is no threat to make the Pro Bowl or anything but it’s his job to lose and right now I don’t see anyone on the roster to whom he can lose it.

Finlay: 2016 was the worst season of Lauvao's seven-year career, at least according to data compiled from Pro Football Focus. Watching Redskins games closely, however, it was obvious Lauvao's play did not slip until after a Week 3 injury against the Browns. Again, late in the season and particularly against the Cardinals, Lauvao was hurt. That game in Arizona came during Trent Williams' suspension, when much of the offensive line was hurt and playing without their best player. Like Tandler said, Lauvao won't push for a Pro Bowl bid, but if he can stay healthy he's quite serviceable. Fans dislike of Lauvao outpaces his actual play, when healthy. Staying healthy is hard though. It will be interesting to see if Kouandjio has gained enough strength to really push for this job. Arie has a chance, but he does not have the upper body muscle of Lauvao, or at least he has not shown it yet. Repeatedly in 1-on-1 drills last season and particularly in Richmond, Kouandjio got shoved backwards. That can't happen this summer if he wants to push Lauvao for the left guard gig. The Redskins like to develop offensive lineman internally - look at the success of Spencer Long and Morgan Moses, not just first-round guys like Williams and Brandon Scherff. Kouandjio would fit that bill. He will be in his third season, that's when Long really looked his best at starting center and Moses began to run heads with his play at right tackle. The opportunity will be there, but don't forget, Lauvao was signed in 2014, after the Shanahans left town and Bruce Allen was calling the shots. We all know who is calling the shots now, again. 

RELATED: Roster shuffle to continue with rookie camp and OTAs around the corner

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Redskins have a 1 in 8 chance of playing in Mexico City next season

Redskins have a 1 in 8 chance of playing in Mexico City next season

There is a one-in-eight chance the Redskins will play against the Arizona Cardinals next season in Mexico City.

The Cardinals are hosting the Super Bowl in 2023, so as a tradeoff, one of their games next season will be played south of the border at Estadio Azteca, the NFL announced Friday.

Arizona has home games against the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins in 2020, so one of those eight squads will head to Mexico City rather than the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. AZ.

"We are thrilled to learn that this game will take place at Estadio Azteca where we received such an enthusiastic reception in 2005," Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill said in a release. "We are extremely grateful for the support we receive from fans in Mexico and look forward to an incredible experience."

The Redskins have only played in one game outside the United States as part of the International Series. In Week 8 of the 2016 NFL season, the Redskins and the Bengals finished in a 27-27 tie at Wembley Stadium in London.

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Junkies' call Mel Kiper's stance of the Redskins taking Tua Tagovailoa over Chase Young 'preposterous'

Junkies' call Mel Kiper's stance of the Redskins taking Tua Tagovailoa over Chase Young 'preposterous'

What should the Redskins do with the second pick in the 2020 NFL Draft? 

Some believe Washington has an easy choice and should take Chase Young. Some think they should consider taking Tua Tagovailoa despite drafting Dwayne Haskins a year ago. ESPN's Mel Kiper is a proponent of both.

"You can have all the Chase Young's you want," Kiper said Thursday. "This is a quarterback league all the way.

"If the medical staff clears [Tagovailoa], and the medical staff is going to be key to this," he continued. "If they sign off, you take Tua at No. 2. You don't trade the pick, you don't take Chase Young. And if Haskins turns out to better, than great then we can trade Tua."

This goes against what Kiper said just a month ago. In a mock draft from January 24, Kiper wrote, "If you scanned Washington's depth chart, you probably wouldn't pick out an edge rusher as its top need. It might not even be in the top three. And yet, the Redskins absolutely can't pass on Young -- unless they get bowled over with an offer from a team trading up."

Anyway, The Sports Junkies took time to react to Kiper's comments on their Friday show. Eric Bickel, J.P. Flaim and Jason Bishop had particularly interesting takes on whether the Redskins should consider drafting a quarterback in the first round in back-to-back years.

That's preposterous," Bickel said. "That's the part where it falls apart."

"You can't draft quarterbacks back to back in the first round and have them battle it out," Bishop said. 

"It would be just like what happened in Arizona," Bickel said in response. "They'd have to unload Haskins and get what they could."

The Cardinals did exactly what Kiper is proposing for the Redskins last season when they took Kyler Murray with the first pick despite drafting Josh Rosen in the top-10 the year prior. Arizona, similar to the Redskins this year, hired a new head coach after taking Rosen. 

The Cardinals then traded Rosen to the Dolphins on Day 2 of the draft last year in exchange for a second-round pick (Andy Isabella) and a 2020 fifth-round pick. Murray went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and Rosen only made three starts for the Dolphins in 2019. 

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and if the Redskins believe Tagovailoa gives them a better chance to compete for a Super Bowl than Dwayne Haskins, then they shouldn't worry about taking a quarterback in back-to-back drafts. It's certainly worked out for the Cardinals so far. But there are no certainties in the draft, as Flaim points out. 

"I think [Kiper's] just saying that," Flaim said. "The reality is if you really believe Tua is going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Like, if you're evaluation is Tua's going to be a Russell Wilson, he's going to be an Aaron Rodgers, he's going to be an elite quarterback in the league, and Haskins is just going to be a guy, he could be a starter, then you take Tua. But it's so inexact you have no idea."

Washington's interest in Tagovailoa is unknown at this point, though they will be meeting with him and Joe Burrow prior to the draft. Head coach Ron Rivera did say however, the Redskins are, 'just doing our due diligence,' in meeting with the top two quarterbacks in this year's draft. 

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