We will be featuring a different Washington Redskins player each day on this list, staying away from rookies or some second-year players still finding their way. This will focus primarily on veterans at or near a career crossroads. Today: Right tackle Tyler Polumbus.
Why he has something to prove: Because Polumbus is in the final year of his contract and will be under heavy scrutiny all season, with a potential replacement behind him in rookie Morgan Moses. Keep in mind that Moses did not look close to being ready this spring -- even at the end -- and likely will take a year or so to be ready for a starting job. It’ll be interesting to see how far along third-year Tom Compton is as well; coach Jay Gruden praised him unprompted in a news conference last week. So the Redskins might -- I stress might -- have alternatives if Polumbus struggles. However, Polumbus improved in 2013 over '12, getting better at using his hands (keeping them tighter to better control linemen). Many fans have his 2012 season too etched in their memories. There's no doubt he needs to improve and opinions on him were split at Redskins Park this offseason. But he was better this past fall than the previous year (when he was bad). But he's playing for a new contract, whether with Washington or someone else.
What he needs to do: Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said, “Some things that were glaring weaknesses in '12 he fixed a lot of them in '13. I'll never say he fixed it completely, but hand placement was something he did improve. ... He made a huge jump... It helped him a lot. [Attacking] their counter is the next step. ...I don't want to tell anyone what his problems are. But he did fix the problem. The next step is, 'OK, so now I'm doing this, these are the things that come along with that.' Tyler is very aware."
In other words: He has to get better. He didn't always play with strength and would allow defenders into his chest. He's not a long-armed tackle who can still block rushers with his arms wide. If he allows them into his chest, he’s in trouble. That’s one area he cut down on, but needs to keep doing so. Polumbus was also beaten wide on a few occasions. Just know that in re-watching the sacks on Robert Griffin III from this past season, I saw left tackle Trent Williams responsible for as many issues as Polumbus. That's not to say the latter played better, but that he was not the issue many say. Still, he needs to improve. It will impact his ability to hold onto the starting job as well as earn a new contract.
Projection: Starting right tackle. Unless Compton looks ready, and it's impossible to say that after not having seen him in game action since last summer, then Polumbus will be the guy.