Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 30, 30 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.
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Let’s look at this from a couple of angles here. First, will the line be better? Certainly, it will be different with Spencer Long moving in at right guard in place of the departed Chris Chester, top draft pick Brandon Scherff moving in at right guard with Tom Compton being pushed aside and Bill Callahan taking over the coaching duties.
But will different necessarily be better? Chester was cut for a number of reasons, his age (32) and salary cap number ($4.8 million) chief among them. He wasn’t cut because he’s a horrible player. Pro Football Focus rated him 15th among front-line starting right guards last year. That’s not great but it is not awful either; it's the definition of replacement level or average. Long was given every opportunity to push Chester aside last year and he couldn’t do it. The hope is that Long will be better over time and he’ll certainly be cheaper. But there is no guarantee that Long will be better in 2015 than Chester was in 2014.
Scherff is likely to be an upgrade over Compton, who was in the lower part of PFF’s ranking, right off the bat. But Jay Gruden certainly doesn’t expect him to be perfect when it comes to pass blocking. The No. 5 overall draft pick is “going to get beat a couple times by some top-level pass rushers,” Gruden said during minicamp. It seems as though Griffin can expect some pressure from the right side.
Callahan has an excellent reputation as an offensive line coach. But so did the man he replaced, Chris Foerster. It may be that Callahan can get more out of the unit but it’s not like he’s replacing some sort of a hack.
And there are potential issues with the holdovers. Trent Williams played on one leg for a good chunk of last season and missed a game and a half, Kory Lichtensteiger has to adjust to executing power blocks at 296 lb. and Shawn Lauvao was second on the team with 20 QB hurries given up.
I’m intentionally focusing on the negative here to make the point that it’s not a given that the Redskins will field a better O-line this year. But if things fall into place, they could be a pretty good line, especially as the season goes on and Scherff and Long get more snaps under their belts. If they do develop into the unit many fans hope they can be, can Griffin take advantage of it?
That remains to be seen. It won’t help much if he holds on to the ball too long like he did at times last year. Last year he dropped back to pass 247 times and was sacked 33 times (13.4 percent). Playing behind the same line Kirk Cousins had 212 dropbacks and was sacked eight times (3.8 percent). All of Griffin’s issues were not traceable to a shaky offensive line.
If the line is indeed better then that should help Griffin. But even if it does materialize, improved protection will not be a cure for all that ails his game.
—It’s been 184 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 75 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.
—Days until: Redskins training camp starts 30; Preseason opener @ Browns 44; final cuts 67
If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.
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