By Rich Tandler
With the championship competition phase of Redskins’ 2011 season essentially over, let’s take a look at what really matters right now. What pieces of the puzzle for 2012 and beyond are in place? Where will the Redskins have to look for help in free agency and in the draft? Over the next few weeks we’ll put the roster under the microscope and see who might be key members of a playoff team and which ones need to be left on the side of the road.
Today in the first installment we’ll look at the offensive line and we’ll work our way through the roster by position over the next couple of weeks
Key starters: Trent Williams, Chris Chester
Marginal/depth players: Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Maurice Hurt, Tyler Polumbus, Willie Smith
Out: Erik Cook, Jammal Brown, Sean Locklear
Current starters: (left to right) Williams, Hurt/Polumbus, Montgomery, Chester, Brown
Williams’ development into an anchor for the offensive line is happening in fits and starts. One moment he’s making the athletic moves that remind you why the Redskins drafted him fourth overall; the next he’s making a mental mistake to let a defender blow by him or committing a key penalty. He’s definitely a key player and possibly a perennial Pro Bowl performer if he irons out the issues.
Chester isn’t going to a Pro Bowl anytime soon but he has been solid all season long as he learns the zone-blocking scheme. At age 27 he should have several good seasons left.
On the other end of the scale, Cook’s two and a half games at center demonstrated that he can’t play in the middle of the line whether it’s due to his height or other factors. Maybe he can develop into a backup but the Redskins are likely to look elsewhere for interior line depth. The Redskins probably will look to get another year out of the 30-year-old Brown but he can’t seem to stay healthy and he’s only marginally effective when he’s in the lineup. Locklear may want to hang on to cash another season or two worth of NFL checks but it probably will be elsewhere.
Looking at the marginal players, Lichtensteiger (age 26) and Montgomery (28) are both decent players in their natural positions. Montgomery is slated to be an unrestricted free agent after this season and center is a position that the Redskins cold easily upgrade in the draft if the right player is there. Lichtensteiger, who will be a restricted free agent, would be listed in the key starters category if not for the question marks surrounding his knee injury.
Polumbus is interesting. He’s 26 and can play either tackle spot and he filled in at left guard for Hurt last Sunday. He could be an eventual replacement for Brown, a utility lineman to keep for depth, or he could sign elsewhere next spring.
Smith and Hurt both are projects. Hurt could wind up starting the rest of the year if his knee gets back into shape. He’s playing fairly well for a rookie seventh rounder but not nearly well enough to be considered a starting caliber guard in the NFL. Smith showed enough in training camp for the Redskins to commit a valuable roster spot to his development. Like Hurt, he will go into next year with the benefit of the offseason training, minicamps, and OTA’s that the lockout wiped out last year. We will get a better idea of what to expect out of them starting in training camp next August.