Offensive Line is the Key in Sunday’s Battle for 1st in the Beast
- Updated: October 18, 2012
In a season that has been full of freak injuries (Pierre Garcon) and surprise stars (Alfred Morris), the Redskins have found a way to remain relevant in the NFL landscape for more than just that QB named Bob.
Despite a rash of injuries and a defensive backfield that has been burnt so many times FedEx field now has fireman on stand-by, the Washington Redskins enter Sunday’s battle with the New York Giants primed to earn a share of first place in the NFC East.
For the first time in over a decade the Redskins are making national headlines, not for the latest drama over an overpaid diva but because the Burgundy and Gold are being lead by arguably the most electric player in the NFL today.
Week after week RG3 is finding a way to prove he is worth every penny and every pick that Bruce Allen gave up to bring him to DC.
While fantasy owners and Redskins Nation sleep dreaming of Griffin’s next 30+ point day (in Fantasy Football and on the Scoreboard), defensive coordinators who know they will see the Heisman winner are having nightmares for the same reasons.
When you break down the success of what Mike Shanahan recently called the “East Coast Offense” you can’t help but be impressed by what they have done in such a short period of time. The team ranks top 5 in the NFL for both total yardage (5th) and points (3rd) not to mention being the 2nd best rushing team in the league.
Make no mistake this is an offensive unit that is as explosive as we have seen before in DC despite free agent prize Pierre Garcon missing all but really 1 quarter this season. Griffin’s versatility has allowed Kyle Shanahan to open the playbook and keep defenders guessing every game, but one of the largest reasons for this season’s offensive success doesn’t go by Bob or RG3.
In fact the group responsible for even the success of the budding superstar has quietly been assembled over the last 3 seasons with relatively no fanfare at all. ESPN isn’t talking about these guys and NFL.com surely does not have an entire section tracking their career.
I am talking about the forgotten 5, the largest and least visible guys on the field every week – the Offensive Line.
The group is full of guys that have been left for dead by other organizations or drafted so late they are supposed to be non factors at this level and yet they continue to find success.
They are a HUGE reason this team is averaging 5.2 yards per rushing attempt as well as a big reason Griffin is having his way with defenses week after week and posting a QB rating of 100.5.
Remarkably this unit had been projected by many to be the downfall of this offense, with many experts claiming the Redskins trading so much for RG3 was pointless as he would get “killed behind such a terrible line”. So far that has not been the case, and while Griffin did suffer a concussion two weeks ago that was on him not his offensive line.
When you take into account that Trent Williams was returning from a drug suspension, Kory Lichtensteiger was fighting back from a devastating knee injury and Jammal Brown has the hip of an 80 year old lady the questions were well deserved.
Even Head Coach Mike Shanahan admitted he had to hope for the best in regards to the line this season:
“You keep your fingers cross to start off because you never know for sure.” Shanahan told the media this week “You are hoping Kory [Lichtensteiger] is going be able to come back, but [tackle] Jammal [Brown], we didn’t know really what was going to happen.[Tackle] Tyler Polumbus, you are lucky enough to get him off the waiver wire last year. He was released and he’s come in and done a good job for us. He has been able to stay healthy. [Center] Will [Montgomery] stayed healthy. [Guard] Chris Chester stayed healthy with a couple setbacks here in the preseason. But overall, I have been happy with our guys.”
While the 4/5ths of the line has managed to stay relatively healthy the key has truly been the ability of these players to run this system that has led to success.
“They are starting to feel very comfortable with the system” Shanahan continued “they know what they are doing, and it shows on the field.”
While you cannot overstate the importance of cohesion among the offensive line, one player has clearly stood among the rest – Mike Shanahan’s first draft pick as head coach of the Redskins Trent Williams.
In 2012 Williams has been for lack of a better term, a beast. It doesn’t matter who you put in front of the guy he completely erases them from relevance. This was the case last week as Williams rendered All World defensive end Jerrod Allen completely useless during Sunday’s big win over the Vikings.
Performances like that started to become normal in 2011 for Williams as he battled and beat elite pass rushers like Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware.
Entering 2012 the question was never about Williams’s talent or the impact he has on this offensive line, but if the 3rd year player could stay out of trouble. So far Trent has used last year’s adversity as an opportunity to learn from his mistakes and give the offensive captain a chip on his shoulder.
“That’s a driving force behind a lot of things that I do now,” Williams told the Washington Post earlier this month “I made a mistake and I kind of use it as a learning experience. Of course, I alienated my team for four games and wasn’t able to be there. I was a captain at the time, and that made me feel even worse. This year, I’m just trying to prove to them that I’ve grown up a lot and that’s not me anymore.”