Problem solved: Can’t say that yet. The potential is there, but so are the questions. While there are things to like about Lauvao, he was inconsistent in Cleveland. And, while I’ve long thought Lichtensteiger was best suited for center, we still don’t know how he’ll fare. Keep in mind, too, that it could take time for them to mesh. McGlynn was part of a bad line in Indianapolis; he was better at center than guard. Washington looked at a potential new right tackle in Donald Penn, but did not sign him. The interior struggled more than anywhere last season and that, at least, was addressed. But Chester did not have a good season and, as of now, will return.
What needs to happen: Lauvao needs to become a consistent starter. In watching his games at Cleveland, a couple things jump out. One, he does play with some attitude. Lauvao stuck with pass plays longer than most, so when the quarterback extended a play he stayed with his man. Too often that wasn’t always the case here last season. Lauvao liked the hard shove at the end of a block, almost a punctuation point, and always looked for someone to hit. He also probably led the Browns in helping ball carriers off the ground. Lauvao has longer arms, which always helps. But he sometimes would get too upright and defenders would get into his chest too fast. Lauvao seemed to move well, which should make him a good fit in the outside zone game (as Cleveland coaches felt he would be). He will provide more power at left guard than Lichtensteiger could at 280-285 pounds.
Work also needs to be done at center and right guard. Lichtensteiger’s quickness and smarts should help at center, but he still needs to add 10-15 pounds and show that he can handle snapping and blocking in the pistol. It’s a tough transition for some. And it’s not like blocking out of regular shotgun formation because that’s usually a pass set or draw. You’re not firing off the ball as you need to in pistol. Finally, the right guard spot needs more consistency. If it’s not Chester, then one of the young guards needs to finally show they’re worthy. That means Josh LeRibeus needs a strong offseason; he’s off to a good start by weighing only 317 pounds but now he must sustain and improve his play. Can you trust he’ll be that disciplined each offseason? No, there’s proof to the contrary (college, 2013). Adam Gettis continues to get stronger and that will help. He improved as a run-blocker. Maurice Hurt? I like the other two better, but we’ll see where Hurt is at after losing 2013 to a knee injury. It’s not as if they’re playing behind Pro Bowlers so it will speak volumes if all are backups again. Here’s how it should work: A team drafts players, develops them and when there’s a need one becomes a starter, saving the team from either having to spend for a free agent or to keep a player around at a higher cap figure. That’s not how it’s worked here – yet. Still time. But it's tough to know where these players are at (except for the coaches) because they haven't played substantially since last preseason.
Address in the draft: Yes. The Redskins clearly are not satisfied with Polumbus at right tackle. It’s why they courted Penn and it’s why they’ve held some private pre-draft workouts with, among others, Morgan Moses. That’s smart; the Redskins absolutely need to see if they can upgrade here. Polumbus’ play definitely improved in 2013 and he was clearly not the cause of the offensive issues. Could he have played better? Of course. But to think they’ll suddenly take off as an offense with a new right tackle is silly. If they can’t succeed with the weapons they have added offensively – and with a quarterback once selected No. 2 overall -- then they have far bigger issues than right tackle. Having said all that, if there’s a right tackle they like at No. 34, they should take him. If they added a young athletic talent it would give them quite the bookends. But just remember it will take time for that player to learn. Is Tom Compton in the mix? I think we’ll find out more after the draft, based on what the Redskins do – or don’t do.
The last word: As was evident in 2013, the line struggled in one-on-one pass-rush matchups. It was not a strength. And too often quarterback Robert Griffin III couldn't step into throws because of a tight pocket. But, while giving the quarterback time is a key, no quarterback will ever have all the time he wants. You still have to make plays. The Colts had a horrible line last season, yet still made the playoffs and Andrew Luck still threw 23 touchdowns to only nine interceptions. Russell Wilson was sacked 44 times; he had an excellent season. Heck, two years ago Griffin played behind the same line he did in 2013 and the offense flourished – his impact had a tremendous trickle-down effect. But the reality is, last year he needed more help – both because of physical limitations and where he was at as a pocket passer, facing different coverages and looks and having no offseason to improve -- and certain areas of the line were exposed. He will always need more time than some quarterbacks just because of his ability to extend plays, which is a great asset. (Wilson uses this as well.) It also needs to be pointed out that the run game was productive with this group the past two years; there are other factors involved in that success, just as pass-protection issues are not just the fault of the front five. The line needs to improve, but it'll need help, too, whether from the scheme, game situations or Griffin's growth as a quarterback.