Redskins: Breaking Down the Lines (Pt. 1)

Mark Steven@@omstevenCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2008

I have been beating the drum recently about the woeful state of the Washington Redskins offensive and defensive lines.

More specifically, I have taken the front office to task over what I believe is the complete and ultimately disastrous failure to establish a functional pipeline of qualified young linemen to replace their rapidly aging (and based on the evidence in 2008, no longer adequate) starting corps.

Rather than basing that criticism solely on what I see with my own two eyes on game days, I have begun to research the nuts and bolts of how the Redskins have gone about constructing their lines over the past decade and how they arrived where they are today.

Over the coming days and weeks I will be posting the results of that research for reference, discussion and, depending on what we find, perhaps drawing supported conclusions as to whether the Redskins' current struggles to compete with solid opponents at the line of scrimmage are the result of a fundamentally flawed approach, or simply the vagaries of trying to stay competitive in the 21st century NFL.

Let's get to it.

To begin, I broke down the Redskins' college drafts over the past ten years. I limited it to ten years on the premise that beyond that period of time, the data has increasingly little practical relevance to the present, given the number of major external factors (ownership changes, front office changes, coaching changes, player aging and injury, etc.) that come into play.

Here are the raw numbers, broken down by year, total picks, number of linemen selected, player and round selected:

1999 – 6 overall picks, 2 linemen
OT Jon Jansen (2), OG Derek Smith (5)

2000 – 8 picks, 3 linemen
OT C. Samuels (1), OG M. Moore (4), DT D. Cowsette (7)

2001 – 5 picks, 1 lineman
DT Mario Monds (6)

2002 – 10 picks, 2 linemen
OT Reggie Coleman (6), DE Greg Scott (7)

2003 – 3 picks, 1 lineman
OG Derrick Dockery (3)

2004 – 4 picks, 2 linemen
OT Mark Wilson (5), OT Jim Molinaro (6)

2005 – 6 picks, 0 linemen

2006 – 6 picks, 3 linemen
DT A. Montgomery (5), DT K. Golston (6), OG K. Lefotu (7)

2007 – 5 picks, 0 linemen

2008 – 10 picks, 2 linemen
OG Chad Rinehart (3), DE Rob Jackson (7)

Total Picks 63, linemen 16 (25%)

... and broken down by round:

1st Round: 1 (’00)
2nd Round: 1 (’99)
3rd Round: 2 (’03, ’08)
4th Round: 1 (’00)
5th Round: 3 (’99, ’04, ’06)
6th Round: 4 (‘01, ’02, ’04, ’06)
7th Round: 4 (’00, ’02, ’07, ’08)

Of note:

- Over their past five drafts Washington selected 7 linemen (1 third, 2 fifths, 2 sixths, 2 sevenths).

- Dating back to 1992, when the NFL reduced the number of draft rounds from 12 to 7, in those six additional drafts the Redskins selected 12 linemen out of 45 total picks (1 first, 2 seconds, 3 thirds, 1 fourth, 4 fifths and 3sixths).

Moving on …

Recognizing that numbers in a vacuum are of little practical use, I went on to compare and contrast the Redskins’ last ten drafts against those of their primary opponents, the three other NFC East teams.

I chose to start with that comparison because,

1) the six games (37.5% of each regular season) the Redskins play against those three teams every year have such a significant impact on their success or failure, and

2) the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants have provided a baseline of consistently solid programs over that time against which to measure the Redskins’ success.

This is where it starts to get interesting.

Here are the past ten drafts for the NFCE by total picks, rounds in which linemen were selected and year:

Dallas Cowboys
76 total picks; 28 linemen (37%)
1st round: 3 - '99, ‘05 (2)
2nd round: 4 - '99, '02, '03, '04
3rd round: 4 - '01, '04, '06, '07
4th round: 3 - '99, '05, '07
5th round: 1 - '01
6th round: 5 - '01, '02, '05, '06, '08
7th round: 8 - '99, '01, '03, '05, '06 (2)

Philadelphia Eagles
84 picks, 33 linemen (39%)
1st round: 5 – '00, '03, '04, '05, '06
2nd round: 4 – '00, '06, '07, '08
3rd round: 2 – '99, '01
4th round: 7 – '99, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '08
5th round: 2 – '05(2)
6th round: 6 – '00(2), '03, '05, '06, '08
7th round: 7 – '99(2), '02, '04(2), '05, '08

New York Giants
72 total picks, 23 linemen (32%)
1st round: 3 – '99, '03, '06
2nd round: 2 – '02, '03
3rd round: 3 – '02, '05, '07
4th round: 4 – '01, '04, '06(2)
5th round: 2 – '99, '03
6th round: 3 – '05, '07, '08
7th round: 6 – '99, '00, '01, '03, '04(2)

Washington Redskins
63 total picks, 16 linemen (25%)
1st round: 1 – '00
2nd round: 1 – '99
3rd round: 2 – '03, '08
4th round: 1 – '00
5th round: 3 – '99, '04, '06
6th round: 4 - '01, '02, '04
7th round: 4 – '00, '02, '07, '08

For side-by-side tables breaking down linemen drafted by NFCE teams, by round and year, click here. I will also be posting a list identifying each of the players referenced.

The Redskins have had 63 total draft picks over the past ten years. The other three teams have had 84 (Eagles), 76 (Cowboys) and 72 (Giants). The disparity speaks loudly to the Redskins philosophy under owner Dan Snyder of using draft picks as currency in the free agency market.

For the record, I have supported the use of free agency, but always as a complement to the draft, not a replacement, which it became overall for several seasons early in Mr. Snyder's tenure and has largely continued to date insofar as the acquisition of linemen.

Which leads to the next obvious element.

Any meaningful analysis of the Redskins overall personnel strategy has to include those players acquired through free agency as well as the draft. To that end, I am currently researching the free agent linemen acquisitions of each of the four NFCE teams over the past ten years. Those results will be published separately in the coming days.

So what does all this mean?

One thing is obvious—compared to their division rivals, the Redskins are far less active drafting linemen—both in terms of total number of picks used (25 percent versus an average of 36 percent), and in terms of how high in each draft they select linemen (see tables).

Another obvious thing is that given the lack of quality young depth ready to step in and take over for aging and/or ineffective starters, the Redskins have been unable to bridge the gap between the number of linemen drafted and those acquired through free agency. Given my intial look at the free agency names and numbers, I suspect that message will be driven home convincingly.

For me at least, though, the case for that statement has already been made. It begins and ends with the fact that this past Sunday night in Baltimore, the Redskins top two reserve offensive tackles were,

1) a second-year undrafted free agent with nine so-so (that’s a technical term) career starts, who lost his starting job at the beginning of the season, and

2) a 2005 6th-round draft pick C/G, already on his third team, who has never started an NFL game.

To be clear—that is not an indictment of the players. It is instead your humble scribe experiencing something bordering on shock after watching a wealthy team, with serious playoff ambitions, find itself in a defining December game with so precious little in the cupboard that it simply had no better pedigreed, qualified or prepared options.

But we'll let the facts to the talking.

Up next, a breakdown of the current lineman depth charts for the Redskins and rest of the NFC East, broken down in terms of how acquired, when, and whatever else of interest springs from the research.

After that, time and interest permitting, we'll move on to look at a representative sample of other NFL teams, focusing on the perennial contenders, to see how the Redskins approach to building the foundation of any football team stacks up.

Until then, I leave you to contemplate the numbers and their significance.


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