After a 2013 season in which quarterback Robert Griffin III was battered to the point that he was a healthy scratch for the season's final three games, the Washington Redskins made it a priority to upgrade the protection for their franchise player.
The offensive line surrendered 43 sacks and allowed the team's starting quarterbacks to get hit 96 times last season, left tackle Trent Williams was the lone starter above reproach.
As a result, general manager Bruce Allen sought the services of guard Shawn Lauvao and tackle Donald Penn in free agency. While he struck out in his pursuit of Penn, the acquisition of Lauvao enabled Allen to slide incumbent starter Kory Lichtensteiger to center.
What followed was the ouster of center Will Montgomery.
As for the right side of the offensive line, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus can take solace in the fact that they're fighting a group of inexperienced players for their jobs.
But, specifically, in Chester's case, the Redskins have to ask themselves if they're better off going that route.
With that said, let's examine the pros and cons of starting Chester in 2014.
The elder statesman of Washington's offensive line, the 31-year-old Chester will be entering his ninth NFL season in 2014. And with his age, it becomes more likely that the 2013 season wasn't an aberration.
While poor performance can be written off as a result of injury or inexperience, there comes a point where diminishing skills are the cause.
Ask Will Fairfax and Matt Harmon of ProFootballSpot.com, who assert this was the case for Chester.
"He was a nice signing by the team a few years back, but his skills have all but eroded. He was a liability on the field in 2013," Harmon said. In Fairfax's analysis, Chester's play was further condemned: "He was routinely abused when attempting to protect Griffin...Redskins were better off putting a cardboard box at right guard then lining up Chester," he said.
With young prospects like Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long and Adam Gettis waiting in the wings, the team does have options to supplant Chester.
Set to earn $3 million in 2014, according to Spotrac.com, Chester's contract also gives the team a financial motive to go in another direction. If he were cut, the Redskins would net $2.7 million in cap savings.
Furthermore, because Washington is well stocked with offensive lineman, Chester's presence on the roster would force the team to cut bait with at least one of its recent draft picks.
For a player who likely doesn't have a future with the team past the upcoming season, that's an exorbitant cost.
As poorly as Chester played last season, he had his bright moments.
Through Week 9, according to Football Outsiders' J.J. Cooper, Chester hadn't yet been credited with a sack allowed.
|Zero Sacks Allowed Through Week 9 (2013)|
|BUF||70-E. Wood||672||DET||67-R. Sims||570|
|CLE||55-A. Mack||615||DET||75-L. Warford||570|
|NYJ||66-W. Colon||612||TB||76-J. Zuttah||554|
|DEN||65-L. Vasquez||606||SD||61-N. Hardwick||549|
|SEA||64-J. Sweezy||581||CHI||63-R. Garza||521|
|WAS||66-C. Chester||577||TEN||67-A. Levitre||516|
While the hits or hurries Chester surrendered are not charted, the sacks allowed number through this juncture of the 2013 season stands in stark contrast to the four sacks Chester gave over the remainder of the campaign.
Then there's his effectiveness in the running game.
According to Football Outsiders, on runs behind the guard and center, Washington averaged 4.27 adjusted line yards per carry—a statistic that measures an offensive line's effectiveness—which was seventh in the NFL. Given that Washington boasted the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing attack last year, run-blocking obviously was a strength of the offensive line.
This leads to the next point, continuity.
As inept as the Redskins' line was at times last season in pass protection, too much change could eradicate the one thing the unit was good at. Furthermore, it could negate whatever upgrades were made in the talent department.
When it comes to pass protection, chemistry is an integral part. While adjusting to the multiple changes a defense can make pre-snap, communication is the key to setting the proper blocking assignments. The ability to win one-on-one matchups versus pass-rushers is meaningless if you're blocking the wrong man—right?
Keep Chester in the starting lineup, though, and Washington has four of its five starters back from last season.
While an overall decline in play was a cause for the uptick in sacks Washington allowed in 2013, the number of blitzes the team faced was also a factor.
Griffin was sacked 15 times and threw 156 passes versus the blitz in 2014, according to ESPN.com. This is after a 2012 season in which he was sacked only eight times and threw just 92 passes against blitzes.
Further removed from the torn ACL that limited his mobility last season, a spry Griffin will encourage opposing defenses to amp down the number of blitzes in 2014.
On a veteran Washington team that's constructed to compete now in a downtrodden NFC East, Chester should have the edge against an unproven player like Long or LeRibeus.