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Redskins' offensive line holding steady

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Redskins' offensive line holding steady

In the preseason, it appeared that a banged up and unproven line might hold back a potentially explosive Redskins’ offense.

But Kory Lichtensteiger returned from a second knee surgery, Chris Chester’s ankle sprain turned out to be minor, and most important, reserve Tyler Polumbus proved to be an adequate replacement for the injured Jammal Brown.

While it might be a stretch to call the Redskins’ offensive line one of the team’s strengths, the unit certainly has performed much better than anticipated through the season's first six games.

“Overall, I’ve been happy with our guys,” Coach Mike Shanahan said this week. “They are starting to feel very comfortable with the system. They know what they are doing and it shows on the field.”

Quarterback Robert Griffin III has been sacked 12 times, a lower total that 17 other starters and has been hit an average of 5.8 times per game. Some of that, of course, is Griffin’s elusiveness. Some of it, though, is the result of an offensive line that’s in sync and doing an effective job in pass protection.

For comparison’s sake, Arizona’s Kevin Kolb has been sacked 27 times, while Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 23 times. 

The statistics also show Washington’s Trent Williams-led offensive line has been effective in run blocking.

The Redskins rank second in the NFL in rushing yards with 996. Rookie running back Alfred Morris leads the way with 538, while Griffin has amassed 379, the most among quarterbacks.

The unit has, however, seen its share of struggles from time to time. Against the Bengals, for example, Griffin was sacked six times for a total loss of 53 yards and contacted 13 other times while passing. In that game, Williams suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and his replacement, Jordan Black, was not sharp.

That game was the line's low point. Sunday's triumph over the Vikings' top-tier defense, meantime, marked its best effort.

Griffin was sacked just once and hit while passing only three times. The team also rushed for 183 yards, a total highlighted by Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That play began with center Will Montgomery and guards Lichtensteiger and Chester opening a gaping hole for Griffin at the line of scrimmage.

Asked about the line’s unexpected improvement, Shanahan singled out three keys: health, chemistry and Polumbus’ emergence. Polumbus, a 6 foot 8, 305-pound tackle, was signed last November as a depth player. But he won the starting right tackle job in training camp, replacing Brown, who remains on the physically unable to perform list with a hip condition.

“There were a number of people that worried about our offensive line,” Shanahan said. “We have stayed fairly healthy, which is always a big advantage. The offensive line is a group of people working together as a unit. Everybody’s got a piece of the puzzle.”

He added: “The big addition has been Tyler Polumbus. He’s come in and he’s done a good job of picking up the system very quickly. Hopefully, he’ll keep on improving.”

On the other side of the line, Williams is quietly putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season, a bid underscored by his standout performance against Jared Allen last week. Allen recorded a sack late in the game, but the Vikings’ star defensive end beat tight end Logan Paulsen on that play, not Williams.

“I don’t even like watching my rookie year film, because it’s not me,” Williams asked about his progress. “ It’s basically two different players at this point. Last year, I improved a lot. But even that player last year is not the player you see now. It’s experience.”

Williams also knows the line’s biggest challenge awaits Sunday at the Meadowlands. In addition to Jason Pierre Paul, the Redskins must contend with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, among others. 

“They have the best front four the league has to offer,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge.”

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Redskins' starting defense is sharp in small preseason sample of work

Redskins' starting defense is sharp in small preseason sample of work

Judging by the small sample size that the NFL preseason has become it looks like the Redskins’ starting defense is ready to go for the start of the NFL season.

The Redskins’ opponents had six possessions with their staring quarterbacks in the lineup, which usually means that those teams had all of their healthy starters in the game. In those six possessions the Redskins’ opponents mustered 53 yards of total offense.

As far as the starting quarterbacks, the Redskins didn’t face anyone who is bound for Canton five years after retirement. But there wasn’t a Case Keenum in the group either. Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Matt Ryan combined to complete six of 18 passes for 46 yards with no interceptions and no touchdowns. That comes to a combined passer rating of 42.4.

This is a major improvement over the 2015 preseason when starting quarterbacks were much sharper against the Redskins’ defense. Josh McCown, Matthew Stafford, and Joe Flacco completed 19 of 26 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a stellar passer rating of 128.4.

This year the other teams apparently wanted to get the QBs some work and didn’t run a lot. The Redskins gave up 36 rushing yards on eight attempts. That’s an average of 4.5 yards per attempt. Over a year that would be an improvement over last year (4.8 per carry) but still well above the league average (4.1).

It’s hard to overemphasize the small sample sizes involved here. It would be a mistake to draw any sweeping conclusions from a few dozen snaps. But among the goals of the preseason are to look competent and, as Jay Gruden said, create some “positive vibrations”. The Redskins defense can check the boxes next to both of those.

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Bryan Stork clarifies next move after days of speculation with Redskins

Bryan Stork clarifies next move after days of speculation with Redskins

After days of speculation if Bryan Stork would actually end up in Washington, the former Patriots center clarified his next move via Twitter. 

Redskins GM Scot McCloughan traded for Stork earlier this week after it became apparent New England intended to release the 2014 draft pick out of Florida State. It was unclear, however, if Stork would accept the trade to the 'Skins as he mulled retirement options. 

MORE REDSKINS: WASHINGTON STARTS CUTS EARLY BEFORE DEADLINE

Stork has dealt with a number of concussions in his two-year NFL career. After playing in a Super Bowl as a rookie, his 2015 season was limited by head injuries. 

Coming to the Redskins, Stork may have an opportunity to compete for playing time. Kory Lichtensteiger is installed as the starting center, but he struggled in the third preseason game against the Bills and was lost for much of the 2015 season to injury. 

McCloughan has openly said he wants big, tough guys up front on the offensive line. Stork - at 6-foot-4 and 310 lbs. - with a documented nasty streak definitely fits that bill. 

Whether or not Stork pushes Lichtensteiger for the starting spot - or even competes for the No. 2 center job with Spencer Long - the price for Stork is tough to argue. McCloughan gave up just a conditional seventh round pick to acquire the former New England starter. 

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Redskins cut 10 players before Tuesday deadline

Redskins cut 10 players before Tuesday deadline

The Redskins have started the process of trimming their roster to 75 players by the Tuesday deadline. The team announced that 10 players have been waived.

  • T Al Bond
  • T Cody Booth
  • LB Shiro Davis
  • LB Ejiro Ederaine
  • CB Jeremy Harris
  • LB Willie Jefferson
  • WR Valdez Showers
  • WR Dez Stewart
  • WR Jarvis Turner
  • RB Kelsey Young

The only surprise on the list is Jefferson, who was thought to have a chance at an outside linebacker spot. But apparently the coaches are going to let Houston Bates and Lynden Trail compete for that spot.

The Redskins had 88 players counting against the 90 player limit. So with the 10 players cut today they are a 78, leaving three moves to make before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.