The Washington Redskins' offensive line has been in a constant state of flux since the retirement of Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels. Samuels helped anchor the left side of the line and provided the new quarterback of the week with solid protection.
The Redskins struggles to find a capable quarterback are tied closely with their problems on the offensive line. Without capable blockers, each quarterback was simply counting down the seconds until they were sacked and possibly injured. Now, the Redskins have a new offense, a new quarterback and a new offensive line.
This piece will explore the possible opening day starters for the Redskins offensive line and also role players to keep your eyes on in 2012.
Trent Williams as the opening day left tackle should come as no surprise. Williams was the No. 4 pick in the 2010 draft and was picked primarily because of his fit in Coach Shanahan's scheme. To date, Williams has been good but not great. We are still waiting on the elite-level consistency.
The Redskins run a zone blocking scheme (ZBS) which requires lighter and more agile offensive linemen then a traditional line. Williams is the prototype left tackle for a ZBS, but he needs to be more consistent.
Williams showed a lack of maturity last year when he was suspended for four games after testing positive for marijuana. Entering his third season, there will be no excuses for why Williams cannot succeed. He has the talent, experience and now a suspension to let him know he needs to start producing.
Kory Lichtensteiger was a primary concern for the Redskins front office this offseason as he reached restricted free agent status. Unable to reach a long-term deal, the Redskins placed a fourth-round tender, and Lichtensteiger agreed.
Coming into 2011, the Redskins were excited to see the contribution Lichtensteiger could make, but he was sidelined with an injury at the mid-point. Lichtensteiger ended up needing season ending ACL surgery, but he has stated he is ready for training camp.
Lichtensteiger is another prototype for the ZBS and actually followed Mike Shanahan to Washington after being drafted by the Broncos in 2008. The former Bowling Green standout knows the team is filled with young guards looking for experience and will need to perform right away to hold down his position.
With unrestricted status coming next offseason, Lichtensteiger will be looking to make his worth known and lock up a long-term extension.
Josh LeRibeus will be the opening day starter at center for the Washington Redskins, you heard it here first! Before you cry out against me, go back and watch some of the film from Redskins rookie minicamp.
During the rookie offensive line drills, LeRibeus was working exclusively at, you guessed it, center. LeRibeus was a surprise pick in the third round as guard and this may be the very reason why: He's not going to play guard. Center is the most important player on the offensive line, aside from the left tackle, because he calls all the blocking assignments. LeRibeus will get an early shot to prove he can be a leader for the Redskins.
While it may be hard to believe at first, this is not as crazy a move as it sounds. LeRibeus worked very naturally (with RG3 taking snaps from him) and actually has experience playing center. At SMU, LeRibeus was the starting left guard but also the immediate backup at center. Mike Shanahan spoke with SMU's head coach and discovered that LeRibeus has a natural feel for the position.
Will Montgomery was another priority for the Redskins front office this offseason and received a four-year $12 million deal. Montgomery is a solid veteran playing with one of the youngest offensive lines in football.
Montgomery is a seven-year veteran who became a full-time starter last year. Many remember Montgomery as the starting center from last season and will be surprised to see him at right guard, but don't be. Montgomery was originally thought of as a guard and was only forced into the center role due to injuries.
Montgomery will be the more natural player at right guard as he is more mobile than others and his position will require lots of running. In the ZBS, the guards are required to be smart and athletic players as they will be asked to pull on a variety of running plays. The Redskins especially are known for running a power left play where the right guard pulls across the entire offensive line and seals a hole for the back.
Montgomery may be getting up there in age, but he is the best option at right guard for the Redskins at this point.
Jammal Brown will get perhaps his last chance to prove he can stay healthy this year when he starts at right tackle for the Washington Redskins. Brown has been weighed down by nagging hip injuries, and this may be the end of the road for him.
Brown has the perfect size to be a run mauling right tackle (6'6, 315 pounds), and he also came from an elite program (Oklahoma). Before joining the Redskins, Brown helped anchor one of the best offenses in football with the New Orleans Saints. Now after a large youth movement in Washington, Brown will need to prove he can produce and stay healthy in order to keep his job.
Heading into the NFL draft, many believed the Redskins would address the right tackle position, and they had several opportunities. By not selecting a right tackle (outside of sixth rounder Tom Crompton), Mike Shanahan is showing his faith in Brown. Shanahan must believe he can anchor the right side for the entire season.
Maurice Hurt, Guard: Hurt enters his second year with the Redskins and will be battling for playing time with veterans and newly drafted rookies. Hurt is a big guard who can play on either side and comes from an elite program (Florida). There's no secret here, Hurt will simply need to earn his playing time in training camp and practices, but he is a sneaky player to watch for. Also a sleeper to replace Brown at right tackle.
Chris Chester, Guard: Chester is the reliable and versatile veteran that can play every position on the offensive line. Primarily a guard, Chester was brought over from Baltimore and could patch a hole on the line right away. There is nothing sexy about Chester as a player, but every team needs players like this.
Adam Gettis, Guard: Gettis is one of several rookie offensive linemen to join the team and will fight to hear his name called. Considered by many to be a steal in the fifth round, Gettis brings experience from a proven blocking program (Iowa). Gettis is a player to watch as he might be the first man off the bench to replace any injured guard.