Over the past few days, the Washington Redskins offensive line has been showing marked improvement despite the absence of Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams who is embattled in a holdout with the team.
The Redskins offensive line was widely seen as a group that could be a left guard away from being a top-10 unit entering last season. Unfortunately, injuries hit the group as starting Center Chase Roullier was the only lineman to not miss any time.
That same line minus Williams and potentially finding a new left guard in rookie, Wes Martin and now a new left tackle in veteran, Donald Penn has the look of an improving unit, albeit at times they struggle to keep up with the Redskins front seven.
Improvement should be a big sigh of relief to Redskins Nation because going back to mini-camp and the first few days of training camp the offensive line looked to be in shambles.
A strange thing has happened however over the past few training camp practices and that is the offensive line is starting to get healthy and has raised their competition level against a talented defensive line.
With the addition of Penn and the emergence of Martin, things are looking up for the unit.
Coach Jay Gruden talked about the line and the status of the guard position while talking to the media before a recent practice.
“Yeah, right now we’re playing people in multiple spots,” Gruden said. “We had [Wes] Martin at right guard a little bit yesterday. We’re trying to get these guys something different – different spots, different looks, some flexibility. Obviously [Ereck] Flowers is at guard and tackle. [Geron] Christian got back, he got some reps yesterday and it’s good to have Chase Roullier back. These guys are; Bill [Callahan], (Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach) does a really good job of getting these guys working multiple spots because at the end of the day when you dress five lineman-like I’ve said many a time, those other two swing guys on game day they’ve got to be able to play multiple spots. We’re trying to find the best guys who are most flexible and can help us.”
With Williams continuing his holdout, the Redskins two most senior offensive lineman and the units best are Pro Bowl right guard, Brandon Scherff and right tackle, Morgan Moses.
Both players will have to hold down the line without Williams and also help indoctrinate several young linemen who will be thrust into action early this season.
Scherff mentioned the play of Martin and fellow rookie Ross Pierschbacher while talking with the media from the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center after a recent practice. Martin is working towards starting as a rookie after being selected out of Indiana in the fourth round (131st overall pick) of this past April’s NFL Draft. Pierschbacher was getting quality reps at center and guard early camp with starting center, Roullier missing time as he comes back from offseason shoulder surgery.
“Wes is doing really well,” Scherff said of the rookie. “He’s light years ahead of where I was as a rookie. It’s kind of nice he played left guard in college, so he’s got to just step up there and play left guard now. He’s used to everything he’s just got to know the communication. I told him when I was a rookie that it was hard. I was making a lot of mistakes, but you just got to; like Coach Callahan says you got to let the first one – if you make a mistake you got to let it go and move onto the next one. Ross Pierschbacher is doing an amazing job. I’ve known Ross since college because I took him on his official visit at Iowa. He’s coming along really well for us.”
Moses came to the podium after a recent training camp practice donning a Williams replica No. 71 jersey and answered his first few questions as the seven-time Pro Bowler.
When the questions turned serious, Moses talked about the closeness of the offensive line room.
“You know it’s really one of those things where it’s just we have a great room, man,” Moses said. “It’s a great room, a great relationship with everybody on our offensive line room and we’re like brothers. We know to have the same five out there for every game is vital for our offense. So obviously, you know Brandon is [Scherff] hurt sometimes, you know I’m hurt sometimes, you know Trent [Williams] gets hurt. But because we’re such a close room man, we try to just bond it together and go out there. Man, there’s some days where there’s weeks where Trent didn’t practice one day out of the practice, but you know I knew confidently, you know obviously him being a veteran he was going to be ready when game time came and you know it’s just for our offense, it’s just vital to have those guys out there man. It’s an important part of our offense. You know obviously, we like to run the ball like you said and we can run the ball and everything else opens up.”
The Williams saga doesn’t look to have an end date near. The Redskins might be in a situation where they might have to move their most recognized player on the roster.
Despite the situation, there is still reason to be optimistic.
If the rookies can get up to speed at the rate they seemed to have picked up the pro game and Scherff, Moses, and Roullier can continue to play healthy, the Redskins offensive line despite missing Williams, could still be an adequate and effective unit.