The Sports Daily > Redskins Hog Heaven
Mike Shanahan’s big bet with the Redskins O-line: standing pat

Redskins offensive line

The Washington Redskins ended the 2011 season with its greatest concern in two areas – quarterback and offensive line. The quarterback crises was Mike Shanahan’s own doing. Hog Heaven and analysts like Clinton Portis saw glaring needs on the offense line before Shanahan’s arrival. Yet, the line and running back are the only two areas on offense where Coach Mike is standing pat.

Lets check the changes Coach Shanahan made to other parts of the team and compare that to what he chose not to do with the line.

Less important changes on the offense

All the noise In Washington is at quarterback with Robert Griffin III’s dramatic arrival. Griffin is the player with the greatest potential, but he has the steepest learning curve. Fans hope for the instant gratification of a Cam Newton-type rookie year. Newton’s was a singular achievement that Griffin might duplicate. Like all rookies, RG3 is more about 2013 than 2012.

Please God, let him survive the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul and Kim Khardashian.

The Redskins rebooted at wide receiver by booting Keenan McCardell as position coach to bring in former Giants nemesis Ike Hilliard. Out were veteran players Donte’ Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney. In were Pierre Garćon and Josh Morgan.

Garćon performed well as the No. 2 wide out with the Indianapolis Colts last season. Coach Mike believes he is ready to do for the Redskins what Reggie Wayne does for the Colts — create coverage gaps that other receivers like Garćon can exploit. Garćon outperformed Wayne in yards per catch and touchdowns scored, but that No. 1 thing is yet to proven.

Morgan’s best year (2009) with the San Francisco 49ers barely matched Rod Gardner’s worst year (2004) in Washington. Nor could Morgan in four seasons match Brandon Lloyd’s touchdown performance in his three years with the ‘Niners. Invoking BLloyd’s name is low in Washington, but there is reason for concern.

Coaches’ cam is weightier than stats. Shanahan sees in speedy Morgan a potential No. 2 wide-out as Joe Gibbs once saw in Lloyd, particularly if Leonard Hankerson needs more time to develop. DC native Morgan played high school ball at HD Woodson during Gardner’s heyday. He knows first-hand that Gardner left under a cloud. However, the Redskins have yet to to find Gardner’ equal as a No. 2 wide receiver. Morgan cannot perform at Gardner or Lloyd’s level and be considered a success. He must step up for the home team.

Veteran Santana Moss is the consummate professional we want to mentor young receivers, Hankerson in particular.

Meanwhile, over on defense…Raheem Morris

CB/S Kevin Barnes says the defense must help Griffin III win. Barnes could have said the same for Rex Grossman last season. Grossman did not get that
help, so Stephen Jackson is gone as defensive backfield coach. Raheem Morris replaces him. Shanahan pounced on Morris as soon as Tampa Bay released him.

Morris was promoted Buccaneers head coach a tad too soon, but Tampa Bay saw what Shanahan sees in him. Morris has a way of energizing players that might work for a season or two. That could be all the time that DC Jim Haslett or even Shanahan have left to lead the ‘Skins to a nine-win season.

The Redskins are experimenting with DeAngelo Hall in slot coverage and Barnes at safety. Safeties Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather are headline additions. The ‘Skins drafted S Jordan Bernstine in the seventh round and signed CB free agents Chase Minnifield and Morgan Trent. The Trent move squeezed Leigh Torrence off the roster.

Different does not mean better. Greg Trippiedi covered the concerns in his June 12 Hog Heaven story Secondary issues. (Go take a look. We’ll be here when you get back.)

About that O-line

For all the talk about quarterback-driven league, Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls behind football’s best offensive line. He could not replicate that magic in the JG2 era because he never found a Jim Lachey-talent to renew the line. Neither has Shanahan.

The Redskins will open this season with last year’s starters: Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Jammal Brown. This is no oversight. Shanahan believes in his starters, we hope for a better reason than he believed in Rex Grossman and John Beck. (Sorry, coach. We know that whole “stake my reputation” thing was marketing fluff. It’s forgivable, but not forgettable.)

Trent Williams, Donovan McNabb, Kory LichtensteigerShanahan kept Chris Foerster as offensive line coach. There are no Meriweather , Garćon or Lachey additions to the O-line. Continuity is crucial to building an effective offensive line, especially one growing in  zone blocking. Shanahan stakes his reputation on continuity to get more from the 2011’s 21st-ranked offensive line. (Source: NFL.com.) It is a risky bet.

The Redskins were strong on first down rushes to the left. Only the Eagles were better within the division. But, the raw numbers show Washington was worst in the Beast for first down rushes up the middle and to the right. The stat masters at Football Outsiders were kinder. They ranked the ‘Skins second in the league in rushes up the middle and 14th in rushes around right tackle for adjusted line yards.

Washington was far more successful (sixth-ranked) when running to the right through a tight end. The ‘Skins ranked last of NFC East teams in sacks allowed and were atrocious in QB hits allowed (108).

Washington would have performed better if the line remained healthy. This is football. Injuries happen. The line will not remain healthy. Depth matters. Shanahan is placing his chips on the reserves.

Coach Mike surprised us with his third-round pick of G/C Josh LeRibeus (SMU). Iowa Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz says Washington got a steal with fifth-round pick G Adam Gettis. At best, they will challenge OL back-ups Maurice Hurt and Erik Cook. The Redskins open training camp with undistinguished James Lee and Willie Smith as back-up tackles. Washington has yet to duplicate RT Jon Jansen’s talent.

All teams are equal in injury risk. Talent like Jim Lachey’s doesn’t grow on trees. So, Shanahan will do for RG3 what he did not do for Donovan McNabb, adapt the offense to Griffin III’s unique mobility. A moments hesitation by defenders is as good as a block.

In a way, that makes RG3 a pseudo-lineman. Maybe that counts as an addition to the O-line, but, can the Shanahan win by standing pat?