With OTA’s in full swing, excitement for the upcoming season has ratcheted up another notch. As the rookies begin to mingle with the returning vets and other hopefuls, new storylines are beginning to take shape. Like, how the key to a successful 2016 season lies in the hands of a quarterback not named Kirk Cousins.
The strides that the offensive line group make in year two under the tutelage of Bill Callahan, will go a long way to determining just how good this team can truly be. From a shake up in training camp last year on the right side, to two young and untested players being baptized by fire due to injuries– the group overall, handled themselves fairly well. Now for the encore.
During his previous stop prior to arriving in DC in January 2015, the former college QB Callahan, headed up a group that opened holes for DeMarco Murray’s monster 2014 season with the Cowboys. And even without the talent that was at his disposal, his arrival brought huge expectations and excitement for what could be, with then returning starter Alfred Morris in the backfield.
Although Washington struggled mightily to replicate those types of numbers on the ground in his first season, his effect was still visible. With Washington’s sack numbers plummeting from 58 in 2014 to 27 in 2015. Allowing for newly appointed starter Kirk Cousins, to throw for 4166 yards (a new single season team record), 29 touchdowns and a 69.8% completion percentage (good for second all-time in team history, behind the legendary Sammy Baugh).
But the running game. 1500 yards and a per carry average of 3.7 (good for 20th in 2015), prevented the team from being able to truly impose their will. Forcing the onus over onto the passing game and a defense, which improved last season but still is a work in progress.
Was it now departed Alfred Morris’ inability to fully adapt (physically and/or mentally) to a new run scheme– behind an inexperienced line? Was then rookie Matt Jones to blame for not having the patience to know when and when not to press the hole? Could it have been Coach Gruden’s insistence to sub his backs like the Kentucky Wildcats rotate in McDonald’s All-Americans on the hardwood?
Yes. All of that played a role to varying degrees.
The reality is, there is a lot of youth on the offensive side of the ball in Washington. Especially upfront in the trenches. Save for perennial pro bowler Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger, the other potential starters up front in 2016 will be 25 or younger with a combined 46 starts between them (Long-13, Scherff-16, Moses-17).
Coach Callahan was the man responsible for molding a very young talented group of lineman in Dallas into one of the premier lines in football. So we know he’s more than qualified. And Washington, once a team known for eschewing adding quality young talent upfront, has used eight of their last 25 draft picks dating back to 2012, on the position.
2012: Josh LeRibeus (G) SMU – 3rd Rd* | Adam Gettis (G) IOWA – 5th Rd | Tom Compton (T) South Dakota – 6th Rd
2014: Morgan Moses (T) UVA – 3rd Rd* | Spencer Long (G) NEB – 3rd Rd*
2015: Brandon Scherff (G) IOWA – 1st Rd* | Arie Kouandjio (G) ALA – 4th Rd | Austin Reiter (C) USF – 7th Rd
* – denotes player who saw regular season action in 2015
Bringing forth the question. Can the young fellas continue to grow and take that next step in their maturation? Redskins fans are definitely hoping so. Because if they can, that makes a very good offense potentially lethal, with a newfound ability to be truly balanced with their gameplan. Running because want to, not because they have to– which will only benefit both the pass game and their own defense.
The former Benedictine College quarterback turned offensive line jedi master, laid the foundation in 2015. As barring any major transactions, both the starters and rotation guys on the line will have been in his program for a season plus. It’s now time for the necessary tweaks in the film room and practice, so that the big boys can set the table for an even better season.
And yes, Kirk Cousins needs to play well also. But we knew that already.