The Redskins’ quarterback play was not exactly spectacular in 2011, but Rex Grossman and John Beck didn’t receive much help from their offensive line.
Injuries–coupled with a high-profile suspension–exposed a severe lack of quality depth. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster was forced to shuffle the lineup more than a half-dozen times that season.
It thus made perfect sense for Mike Shanahan to select two versatile offensive lineman in the 2012 draft. Enter guards Josh LeRibeus (SMU, 3rd round) and Adam Gettis (Iowa, 5th round), who would ostensibly crack the Redskins starting lineup sooner rather than later.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the stadium.
Shanahan kept the returning starting lineup intact in 2012, with the exception of Tyler Polumbus, who replaced Jammal Brown at right tackle. The line stayed relatively healthy, and the Redskins graded out as the best run-blocking unit in the NFL last season.
The Redskins were particularly solid at left tackle and center, with Trent Williams and Will Montgomery having excellent seasons. Polumbus struggled in pass protection against speedy defensive ends, but without a suitable replacement, he stayed in the lineup and held his own.
The guard positions, manned by left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and right guard Chris Chester, seemed vulnerable to time sharing if not outright rotation. Instead, Lichtensteiger and Chester played solidly and gave Shanahan no reason to remove them from the lineup.
Nothing has changed in 2013.
Reports from training camp are that while LeRibeus and Gettis are not struggling, they aren’t forcing Shanahan and Foerster into any difficult decisions either. Not with the play of the starters so far.
It seemed as if LeRibeus might get his chance last year when Lichtensteiger went out with an ankle sprain in the 2012 season finale against the Cowboys. LeRibeus came in for 21 snaps and played very well as the Redskins rolled up 274 rushing yards.
However, Lichtensteiger remains firmly entrenched atop the recently released depth chart, which remains identical to last year. It wasn’t broken, so Shanahan decided not to fix it.
Chester, who with his grey hair looks like he could be the father of some younger players on the team, is the consummate veteran entering his third year with the team. He played for five years up I-95 for the Ravens before reportedly signing a five-year deal with the Redskins in 2011.
Lichtensteiger reportedly signed a similar five-year deal earlier this year.
The good news is that the Redskins don’t need to be in any hurry to rush Gettis and LeRibeus into the lineup, barring injury. The zone-blocking scheme requires quite a bit more sophistication than just pounding defensive linemen, so it takes time to master.
When their time comes, LeRibeus and Gettis should be ready.