The Washington Redskins will begin the 2017 season with an offensive line that has been together for three full NFL seasons now. That may not sound like much, but continuity is indeed one of the most important factors for sustaining a successful offensive line. Despite having the same line, the Redskins have also faced the same question marks in each of those seasons surrounding the left guard position.
While current incumbent, Shawn Lauvao, has played well, he’s also been injured quite frequently and carries an expensive price tag for 29-year old who hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2012. The Redskins could cut Lauvao and save $4 million against their salary cap in the process. Last year, the Redskins started camp wondering if Spencer Long would emerge as the starting center or left guard, flash forward a year later, and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden thinks that question is an after thought.
“I think anytime you play center for the first time in your career and it’s in the National Football League, you’re going to have some rough spots, but I think the more confidence he gets, especially just snapping the ball to the quarterback, that was new to him – shotgun snaps,” said Gruden. “Then you talk about the cadence, that’s all new to him and then all of a sudden he’s got to make all of the line calls for protection and the run game and that’s new to him, so I think he’s really becoming very sure of himself in that regard as far as making the calls, making the right calls, snap counts, his snaps are a lot better than they were this time last year and just like all of these guys, when you get a year under your belt, you’re going to be a lot more confident coming into these OTAs and your improvement will be seen and noticed.”
Third-year guard Arie Kouandjio will most certainly be pushing Lauvao hard for a starting spot this summer after doing well in two starts last season when Lauvao went down with an injury. Redskins assistants believe Kouandjio is ready to make the next step up on the depth chart. Washington also has a couple of other options as well, rookie Chase Roullier and Long can both play center and guard. It may be hard for some to believe that a seventh-round pick will actually challenge for a starting job, but Roullier could play a role in the process. Rookie guards Tyler Cataline and Kyle Kalis will likely just be camp bodies that have an immediate future that includes a shot at the practice squad once the preseason is over. Gruden hopes Roullier is able to start the season as the team’s backup center.
“We hope he can get there, but we have some other players playing at center right now,” Gruden said. “Ronald Patrick is playing center, he is doing a good job. Those [Long, Roullier and Patrick] are our three right now and we’ll see how it goes, but obviously, we’ll start to work some other guys at center also because you never know. When it rains, it pours sometimes. We’ll get injuries on the offensive line so we’re going to have to have guys play in multiple spots.”
The Redskins will be keeping a close eye on this particular roster battle at guard as it progresses through camp. A decision on Lauvau is critical as the team will be counting every last dime in salary cap dollars in preparation of giving quarterback Kirk Cousins a new contract in 2018. While cutting him would free up money it would also leave a hole in the team’s depth chart that they’ll have issues filling currently in free agency. A decision will likely hinge on the performance of any possible backups at training camp.
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