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Versatility may determine Redskins backup O-line competition

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Versatility may determine Redskins backup O-line competition

The Redskins open their season a little over three months from now and it appears that the starting offensive line is set. But the shape of the group behind Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Spencer Long and Brandon Scherff is very much a work in progress.

During the OTA on Tuesday, guard Josh LeRibeus lined up at center when the second and third teams were running plays. But we already knew that from last week. What was different this time around was who lined up at right guard. 

For a while it was Tom Compton, who pulled some double duty to the right of LeRibeus after taking snaps at left tackle with the first team. Then it was Ty Larsen, a center who is battling to make the roster. 

Flexibility is always important when it comes to getting a roster spot but it is in the spotlight this year after the departure of Chris Chester. He was the starting right guard as well as the backup center. If Lichtensteiger had been hurt during a game last year Chester would have moved into the middle and the backup guard, Long on most days, would have been inserted at right guard.

Usually the team can afford to have one backup interior lineman active on game days. So without Chester someone has to be the Plan B both at center and elsewhere on the line. 

Center is not an easy position to learn. In addition to blocking assignments the center has to make calls to set up protection. And then there is the matter of snapping the ball to the quarterback, often from shotgun formation. 

Jay Gruden is happy with what he has seen out of his O-line reserves. 

“It’s very important to get their reps,” he said. And they’re all welcomed to it. Our line all working very well together. Their communication is excellent and they’re all learning and they’re all getting better and that’s kind of the theme around here.” 

There are a lot of possibilities. If Compton can manage to be an emergency guard perhaps Larsen or Austin Reiter could make it just playing center. If Larsen can play guard perhaps he can be a game day active as the interior emergency backup. The same with Reiter. Although he hasn’t worked at center during OTAs open to the media, Gruden said that Long has been learning center. Tackle Morgan Moses is injured now but assuming he returns for camp he could learn to play guard in addition to his primary position. 

This will continue to play out over the three months remaining before the final cuts are made. It may turn out that Player A may make the team over Player B thanks more to his versatility than to his ability at his primary position. 

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins need more than a different game plan to establish an identity

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Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

After a third surgery on his leg in April, Colt McCoy did not practice with the team during OTAs or mandatory minicamp. He was in Ashburn for many of the workouts, but did not take any team snaps.

In a normal quarterback battle, that would put McCoy at a distinct disadvantage, but the Redskins quarterback battle is not exactly normal. 

Veteran Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins got nearly all of the work at signal caller during the spring practice sessions, and both showed signs of being able to take over head coach Jay Gruden's offense. Keenum proved he can handle the huddle and has quickness when plays broke down behind the line of scrimmage. Haskins showed a rocket arm and a ton of potential, but he's also a rookie trying to learn a boatload about life in the NFL in a hurry, like calling plays, and that showed too. 

All of that is a long way to say neither Keenum nor Haskins locked up the top QB job. And that means the door is still open for McCoy.

"We would love for him to take some reps, but obviously his health is more important right now than anything, and that is the most important thing for him," Gruden said about McCoy on the first day of minicamp. "When his time comes it will come quickly. He will be ready."

Gruden's quote speaks to the biggest advantage McCoy will have once he hits the field. He's been with the Redskins since 2014, and knows Gruden's version of the West Coast offense backwards and forwards. 

Throughout the spring sessions, Haskins made clear that his number one goal for the offseason was to learn the playbook and gain mastery of calling plays in the huddle. McCoy already has that.

Speaking with reporters on the last day of minicamp, Keenum explained that Gruden's offense is the seventh or eighth new system he's learned in the NFL. Keenum said each system is like learning a new language, and that "there is no Rosetta Stone for the West Coast Offense."

If there was a translator, its name would be Colt McCoy. 

Once doctors clear the former University of Texas star, he will immediately be the Redskins quarterback with the best understanding of the offense. That will show up on the field right away.

Remember too that Gruden has tried to turn to McCoy as his quarterback at a few different turns, but injuries have always derailed those plans. If McCoy gets fully healthy in time for Richmond, which team sources believe will happen, he has a chance to finally take over this job.

Make no mistake, Haskins is the Redskins long-term future at the quarterback position. He has the talent but needs to learn the speed of the NFL, from playcalling to pass rush. Eventually though, he will be on the field for the Redskins. 

If he wins the job, it's his.

Same for Keenum, who is probably better than he showed last year in Denver but not as good as his career season with Minnesota in 2017. Keenum could certainly start Week 1 in Philadelphia and is probably ahead of Haskins right now. 

But fans would be wise not to count McCoy out of the quarterback competition. The Redskins coaching staff definitely hasn't. 

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The Dwayne Decision: How should Redskins handle Haskins' first season?

The Dwayne Decision: How should Redskins handle Haskins' first season?

For the first time since 2012, the Redskins have a prized first-round rookie quarterback on their roster. 

Now, the team must decide how to approach Dwayne Haskins' first year in the NFL.

Does Washington give him the job right away and let him open up as the No. 1 option in Week 1? Do they let Case Keenum get the first shot, then insert Haskins if things don't go well? Or do they hold him out as long as possible, considering how inexperienced he still is?

Those are the questions the franchise must ask itself, because while Haskins' career is just beginning, it's crucial that things get off to a promising start. And those are the questions NBCSportsWashington.com is asking, too.

Over the next few weeks, you'll hear from analysts like JP Finlay, Brian Mitchell, Pete Hailey and Grant Paulsen, as they all analyze how they would approach the Dwayne Decision. Before you hear from them, though, it's necessary to get Haskins' and Jay Gruden's thoughts on how the youngster handled his initial exposure to the pro level. 

So, here's the passer and the head coach. Check back as the summer rolls along for the takes from NBC Sports Washington's voices, too. And be ready to submit yours at some point, as we intend to let the fans chime in.

What Gruden and Haskins are saying (WATCH)

"We threw a lot at him: formations, motions, protections, route concepts, run concepts, audible, two-minute, no huddle, all of that stuff. There is a lot to learn for the kid, but we want to get it all out there for him so he has an understanding of what it is going to be like come training camp. A long way to go, but I like where he is at." - Gruden after June minicamp

"When I know what I'm doing, I feel like I'm pretty good... Once I figure out the plays, I feel like the sky's the limit for me." - Haskins after June minicamp

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