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Redskins OTAs to-do list: Offensive line looks to improve run blocking

Redskins OTAs to-do list: Offensive line looks to improve run blocking

Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Offensive line to-do list

Tandler: While the coaches love to talk about competition at every position there isn’t much here. Perhaps Arie Kouandjio will push Shawn Lauvao for the starting job at left guard but Lauvao is still a strong favorite to start Week 1.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty for Bill Callahan’s group to do over the next month. For one thing, they need to improve their run blocking. While over the course of the season they were adequate as the running backs gained an average of 4.5 yards per carry, ninth in the NFL, but they didn’t get it done down the stretch. They averaged under three yards per carry in three of the last six games. The Redskins went 0-3 in those games when a win in any of them would have gained them a playoff spot.

They are limited in what they can do because of the no-contact rules during OTAs and minicamp. But they can work on gelling as a unit. Callahan will undoubtedly have his group staying out late after practice is over (he even held an overtime session in rookie camp) and get them to refine their footwork, hand use, and other techniques they need to perform at peak efficiency when they put the pads on.

Finlay: Looking at data provided by Pro Football Focus, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses ranked as the top three run blockers on the Redskins in 2016. No surprises there: Williams and Scherff earned Pro Bowl honors last season and Moses found himself getting a five-year contract extension. Elsewhere on the line, the data doesn't look as good. Lauvao and Spencer Long both rated as a negative in the run game. Long is still learning his center spot, but Lauvao simply must be better.

One overlooked area that could help the Redskins run game: better blocking from the tight end position. Rookie Jeremy Sprinkle could immediately provide a boost. At 6-foot-5 and 252 lbs., Sprinkle will be the biggest tight end on the roster and he's coming from the University of Arkansas that focused very much on the run game. Sprinkle should come in for the Redskins jumbo package, when the team deploys three tight ends, and could spell Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis in other run situations. 

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Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Following a slew of reports that cast doubt on the Redskins reaching a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins, ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Tuesday that the impass is not about money. 

If the report is true, then Washington has run out of good options for retaining Cousins in the long term.

It's possible the team could use a third-straight franchise tag to keep him next season, but the price tag around $34 million would be astronomical for one season.

The transition tag would be worth in the neighborhood of $28 million. 

Russini doesn't elaborate on the reasons behind her report that Cousins wouldn't be happy in Washington regardless of price. But it's important to note that both teams and players have incentive to create leverage in contract negotiations through the media. 

The Redskins have until July 17 to reach a long-term deal with Cousins. 

MORE REDSKINS: Backup center again a question mark for the Redskins

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Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?

Up today…

Position: Interior offensive line

On the roster: Guards Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams; Centers Spencer Long, Chase Roullier, Ronald Patrick

Locks: Lauvao, Scherff, Kouandjio, Long

As noted here this morning, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Lauvao would be on his way out. But free agency and the draft went by and no serious challenger for him was acquired. It looks like they will let him play out the last year of his free agent contract and then see what they want to do with him next year when he will be a 30-year-old free agent.

RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down

The Redskins might like Kouandjio, going into his third season, to emerge as a viable option as Lauvao’s successor. He was not up to the task in a couple of spot starts last year. But, just like Lauvao, he can take some comfort in the fact that the organization did not expend any major resources on bringing in another guard for competition.

Scherff went to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He will be a fixture at right guard for the next decade or so, provided the Redskins can figure out a way to get a third high-priced offensive lineman under the salary cap (in addition to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses).

Long did a solid job in his first year as the starting center. He will anchor the line again this year. He is eligible for a contract extension and it will be interesting to see if talks heat up between now and training camp.

On the bubble: Roullier

In an ideal Redskins world, the rookie sixth-round pick would be able to learn center and both guard spots well enough to be a workable fill-in on game days. In the real world, that may not work. During minicamp, offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me that while he had been impressed with how well Roullier had picked things up so far, the real test will come with the pads on in Richmond.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

Long shots: Catalina, Kalais, Williams, Patrick

You never know what will happen during the preseason but it seems that the practice squad is the best hope for any of these guys to be around Ashburn in the fall. If injury or issues with Roullier’s development create a hole in the depth chart in the 53-man roster the organization is likely to go outside to find help off the waiver wire. Two or three on this list are likely to be back for another shot in 2018.  

Redskins 2017 depth chart previews: Offensive tackle | Wide receiver

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.