Josh LeRibeus was a bit of a surprise pick by the Washington Redskins in the third round. At the time, I thought the best explanation was that Mike Shanahan looks for certain types of offensive linemen for his zone-blocking run game, and that consequently he may evaluate linemen differently than other teams do. We come to find out, in the wake of last weekend's rookie minicamp, that that was part of the reason and another part was that Shanahan believes LeRibeus can play center as well as guard. LeRibeus worked exclusively at center during the three-day minicamp, per Mike Jones:
The position wasn’t completely foreign to LeRibeus. He had never played it in a game at SMU, but he served as backup center in practice. And to make himself more versatile, LeRibeus spent the months leading up to the draft working on his snaps.
So LeRibeus said he didn't encounter many problems at minicamp.
"Luckily I've been working on those snaps, so it wasn't any trouble," the lineman said. "The playbook's huge, but they have a way of teaching it, and coach Foerster is great and I'm picking it up fine."
Shanahan said that he didn't see any problems, either.
"He picked it up in one day like he's been doing it his whole career. But he worked on it during the season," Shanahan said. "I talked to [SMU coach] June Jones, and he said, 'Mike, if our center goes down, he's the first guy to go in.' So, when you practice it throughout your career, usually it's pretty easy."
The Redskins had a depth problem on the line last year, and the general consensus seems to be that they didn't do much to address it this offseason. They still have an issue at right tackle if Jammal Brown can't get over his hip problems. But if LeRibeus does pick up the offense quickly, they might have more options than they did last year in the interior of the line. They could play LeRibeus at center and Will Montgomery at left guard if Kory Lichtensteiger needs more time to recover from his injury. Or they could play LeRibeus at left guard if they like what they see from Montgomery at center. Or they could keep the rookie in a reserve role from which he's able to step in and play center or either guard spot if they lose a starter at one of those positions.
The Redskins apparently targeted LeRibeus because of his versatility (and because of a strong recommendation from Shanahan's buddy June Jones), and have plans for him that might venture beyond the immediately obvious.