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How can the Redskins build a Super Bowl quality O-line?

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How can the Redskins build a Super Bowl quality O-line?

The Redskins have needed to improve their offensive line since the last rendition of the Hogs broke up over 20 years ago. The team has had some solid individual linemen in that time but the unit has never been up to the quality that it was during the Super Bowl glory years from 1982-1991.

How can the Redskins build a Super Bowl offensive line? To figure that out it might be good to take a look at how the offensive lines of the two teams that in the Super Bowl were built. Here’s a look at the expected starters in the Super Bowl and the starters who finished up the 2014 season for the Redskins.

Interior line

Seahawks: C Max Unger (round 2/2009) missed 10 regular season games with injuries but he appears to be back in form for the playoffs. He has two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro on his resume. RG J. R. Sweezy (7/2012) was a late-round pickup who has paid off with 31 starts in the last two years. The Seahawks picked LG James Carpenter (1/2011) in the first round in 2011 but injuries have had him in and out of the lineup.

Patriots: Rookie C Bryan Stork (4/2014) missed the AFC title game with a knee injury but should be back for the Super Bowl. LG Dan Connolly (UDFA) came into the league undrafted and was picked up off the street by the Patriots in 2008. He has started 71 games for them since then. RG Ryan Wendell (UDFA) made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and has been their starting guard for the past three seasons.

Redskins: The Broncos drafted C Kory Lichtensteiger (4/2008), who sat out a season in between being cut loose by Denver and picked up by the Redskins. LG Shawn Lauvao (3/2010) was drafted by the Browns and signed by the Redskins as a free agent in 2014. The Redskins signed Ravens draft pick RG Chris Chester (2/2006) as a free agent in 2011.

Tackles

Seahawks: The Redskins took a real hard look at LT Russell Okung (1/2010) in 2010 but they took Trent Williams instead. Seattle took RT Justin Britt (2/2014) with the last pick of the second round and he started all 16 games this year as a rookie.

Patriots: RT Sebastian Vollmer (2/2009) has been the designated starter most of the time he has been in New England but he has missed 20 games due to injuries in the past four years. The Patriots got the pick the used to draft LT Nate Solder (1/2011) from the Raiders in exchange for DL Richard Seymour.

Redskins: The Redskins’ decision to go with Williams over Okung has paid off so far. Okung has been a solid player but Williams just went to his third Pro Bowl (one for Okung) and his missed six games due to injuries in five seasons (Okung has missed 21). RT Tom Compton (6/2012) took over as the starter this year in midseason.

Bottom line

Between the two teams in the Super Bowl there are three first-round picks (including both left tackles), three second-rounders, one each from the fourth and seventh rounds, and two undrafted players. Only one, Connolly (four games with the Jaguars in 200, ever appeared in a game for another team.

The Redskins start first- and sixth-round picks of their own plus three players who were drafted by and played for other teams.

So it seems apparent that spending high draft picks on the line will help, especially at the tackle position. But the Patriots starting a fourth round pick and two undrafted players in the interior should be instructive as well. The two undrafted guards for the Patriots took their time to develop but the patience has paid off. The fact that the Patriots felt good enough about their undrafted guards that they were willing to trade six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins before the season started speaks volumes about how they develop their line.

It should be noted that the lines for the Patriots and particularly the Seahawks aren’t generally viewed as particularly strong. But they give their quarterbacks enough time to throw and create enough running room for the backs to be effective and, most importantly, they are still playing. I think the Redskins would be pretty happy with a group that could do that.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.