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Redskins 2017 roster battles: O-line mostly set, but could competition emerge at left guard?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: O-line mostly set, but could competition emerge at left guard?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

Left guard

The contenders:

The incumbent is Shawn Lauvao, a seven-year veteran who started 14 games last year. He struggled from time to time, notably against the Cardinals when he gave up a game-turning sack and strip to Calais Campbell. Lauvao is in the last year of the four-year deal he signed as a free agent in 2014 and he costs $5 million against the salary cap. Third-year guard Arie Kouandjio is the challenger. The 2015 fourth-round pick started two games last year when Lauvao was injured. He looked lost against the Browns in Week 4 but he recovered and played better against the Eagles in Week 14.

And the winner is . . .

Tandler: I see a very strong likelihood that Lauvao starts against the Eagles in Week 1. It seems that Jay Gruden trusts Lauvao, perhaps more than his level of play warrants. One indication of this is the fact that the team did not go after a viable challenger for Lauvao in free agency. In the draft, the only O-lineman they took was sixth-rounder Chase Roullier, who is going to be spending his time learning to back up at center and both guard spots, not challenging for a starting job. That leaves Kouandjio, who didn’t appear to be ready last year when he got the chance. Lauvao is no threat to make the Pro Bowl or anything but it’s his job to lose and right now I don’t see anyone on the roster to whom he can lose it.

Finlay: 2016 was the worst season of Lauvao's seven-year career, at least according to data compiled from Pro Football Focus. Watching Redskins games closely, however, it was obvious Lauvao's play did not slip until after a Week 3 injury against the Browns. Again, late in the season and particularly against the Cardinals, Lauvao was hurt. That game in Arizona came during Trent Williams' suspension, when much of the offensive line was hurt and playing without their best player. Like Tandler said, Lauvao won't push for a Pro Bowl bid, but if he can stay healthy he's quite serviceable. Fans dislike of Lauvao outpaces his actual play, when healthy. Staying healthy is hard though. It will be interesting to see if Kouandjio has gained enough strength to really push for this job. Arie has a chance, but he does not have the upper body muscle of Lauvao, or at least he has not shown it yet. Repeatedly in 1-on-1 drills last season and particularly in Richmond, Kouandjio got shoved backwards. That can't happen this summer if he wants to push Lauvao for the left guard gig. The Redskins like to develop offensive lineman internally - look at the success of Spencer Long and Morgan Moses, not just first-round guys like Williams and Brandon Scherff. Kouandjio would fit that bill. He will be in his third season, that's when Long really looked his best at starting center and Moses began to run heads with his play at right tackle. The opportunity will be there, but don't forget, Lauvao was signed in 2014, after the Shanahans left town and Bruce Allen was calling the shots. We all know who is calling the shots now, again. 

RELATED: Roster shuffle to continue with rookie camp and OTAs around the corner

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 


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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.


The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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.

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