With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.
What will the offensive line depth chart look like?
It appears that the Redskins’ offensive line starters are set. Barring injury or other unforeseen issues, Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Spencer Long, and Brandon Scherff will line up from left to right when the Redskins take on the Dolphins Week 1. But depth is important and Bill Callahan and Jay Gruden will have to cobble together a mix of draft picks, free agents, and holdovers to keep on the 53-man roster should they be needed. Who will be on that depth chart?
Tandler: The first thing that Gruden and Callahan will need to figure out is how many linemen they will keep. Teams usually keep eight or nine O-linemen on the final 53-man roster. With the team trying to develop depth for the future I think they will go with nine.
That probably means two interior reserves and two tackles. On the outside, Morgan Moses likely is a lock. They spent a third-round pick on him a year ago knowing he would be something of a project. In a surprise, I think that Willie Smith beats out Tom Compton for the other tackle job. If Williams is banged up for a game or two, certainly a possibility given his history, I think they would trust Smith more than Compton to fill in at left tackle.
Rookie Arie Kouandjio was a fourth-round pick and they will keep him around to develop. Will guard Josh LeRibeus, whose career hasn’t been able to gain any traction since he was a third-round pick in 2012, survive the cut? Or will this year’s seventh-round pick, center Austin Reiter, get the last spot?
It may depend on how well LeRibeus can play center and how well Reiter can play guard. Backup interior linemen need to be versatile so the player who best demonstrates that he can handle both positions will get the nod. I think that’s LeRibeus, with Reiter headed to the practice squad.
El-Bashir: I think the Redskins keep nine linemen, just as they did in Gruden’s first year.
And here’s how I see it shaking out: Williams, Scherff, Compton and Moses at tackle; Lauvao, Long, LeRibeus and Kouandjio are the guards; and Lichtensteiger is the center. LeRibeus got in a significant amount of work this offseason at center and will be the emergency should something happen to Lichtensteiger. Meantime, I expect Reiter to head to the practice squad for some seasoning.
I don’t anticipate much drama in training camp along the O-line. But I will be keeping an eye on Smith and Kouandjio.
Smith, who was signed in June for a second tour of duty in Washington, might be able to put some pressure on the backups in front of him. But to earn a spot on the 53, the 28-year-old would need to squeeze his way past Compton, who started at left tackle during OTAs while Williams rehabbed his ankle, and/or Moses, whom the Redskins invested a third round pick only a year ago. Smith does, however, have an edge in experience.
As for Kouandjio, I don’t see him pushing for a starting role right away. But he’s big (6-5, 310) and physical and could intrigue Gruden and Callahan if he proves to be a fast learner.
Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A:
- Who will start at strong safety?
- Who will return punts and kickoffs?
- Who will be the third down back?
- Which rookie will have the most impact?
- How will the carries be divvied up?
- What will the QB depth chart look like?
- Who will the third running back be?
- Which free agent will have the most impact?
- Which new assistant coach will have the biggest impact?
- What team is the biggest threat to win the NFC East?
- Will Jason Hatcher live up to his contract?
- Who will be the training camp phenom?
- What will the cornerback depth chart look like?
- Can McCloughan be the franchise savior?
- Was Scherff the right pick at No. 5?
- Can Gruden turn it around?
- Will Kai Forbath be challenged in camp?