It’s never easy to field a successful offense when an offensive line is constantly in flux – just ask the Redskins. They’ve endured several seasons worth of mediocre line play because the front office has yet to make a serious commitment to rebuilding a line that once featured standout tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen.
Aside from drafting Trent Williams, little has been done to bolster the line with younger, high-upside players and the lack of depth could end up being the offense’s undoing.
Injuries and a lack of depth have resulted in a rotating door of inconsistency. And now after a carnage-filled Sunday against the Eagles, more wholesale changes up front will provide another setback in the trenches for Washington.
Last week, the offensive line lost Kory Lichtensteiger for the season and Williams for the next three weeks, a pair of crushing blows to a long-suffering unit.
It's really a shame because the Redskins were finally enjoying a little stability and showing some signs of growth having turned in two 150+ yard rushing performances this season. But Sunday’s injuries mean it’s back to the mix-and-match format.
“Anytime you lose starters, especially guys of that caliber, it’s going to be tough but I feel strongly about the guys that we are bringing in,” said John Beck.
Lichtensteiger had come along way since Mike Shanahan reunited with him after a year together in Denver. Just three weeks into the 2010 season, he received his first start, replacing Derrick Dockery for the rest of the year at left guard.
This season, Lichtensteiger was one of the unsung heroes along the line. Never dominant, but an effective blocker and top-notch teammate. Unspectacular yes, but also invaluable given the shortage of interior linemen on the roster.
“When Kory went down, that really hurts because he’s a good friend of mine,” said Will Montgomery. “We trained all offseason and he means a lot to this offense.”
Montgomery is playing center this season and the two were very comfortable playing next to each other. Williams was also upset over losing Lichtensteiger as the young left tackle has relied on him heavily throughout his short career.
“I know I’m in my situation, but his situation gets little deeper than mine,” Williams said. “I feel terrible for him. He’s like a brother to me. [I’ve] been playing beside him since I came into the league. I’m going to hate to see him on the sidelines.”
With the injuries, it’s likely Montgomery will move over to left guard, Erik Cook will slide in at center and Sean Locklear will play left tackle. Not an ideal scenario, but they’ll get a crack at a Panthers team that has nine sacks and is also ranked 31st against the run.
“I’m confident in our players,” Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s a challenge any time you have three starters go down. It’s always going to be a challenge, but I’m confident in the guys we’ve got on our team and I’m excited to see them play Sunday.”
With all the focus on the quarterback controversy this week at Redskins Park, the offensive line has silently gone under the radar. But ultimately how well Beck does this week will depend heavily on the performance of the reconfigured unit.
“It takes continuity, and when you lose three guys on offense, you better get together pretty quick because people aren’t going to feel sorry for you.” Mike Shanahan said. “You’ve got to go out there and get very cohesive very quickly and eliminate some of those mistakes.”