With training camp set to begin this month, Redskins.com previews the current state of the Redskins roster, continuing with the team's offensive tackles.
The 2017 season served as a crossroads for the offensive tackles because, like many areas around the team, injuries took their toll on this group. Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams only played in 10 games last season, but has said that he'll be the best football shape he's ever been in once training camp begins on July 26 in Richmond, Va.
Addition(s): Geron Christian Sr. (NFL Draft) and Timon Paris (College Free Agent)
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
Washington has been fortunate to have stability at the tackle position for such a long period of time, allowing head coach Jay Gruden to address other needs in his four years with the team. However, the injury to Williams, and Morgan Moses undergoing surgery on his ankle in the offseason, forced the Redskins to draft their first tackle in Geron Christian Sr. since selecting Moses in 2014.
The most important role that a tackle plays when predicting the overall success of an offense is giving the quarterback enough time to go through his progressions as he tries to hit his receivers downfield.
Williams and Moses have become masters at this very challenging craft. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Redskins offensive line gave former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins 2.7 seconds of time from the snap to the release of the football last season, which ranked ahead of the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.
Both veterans figure to insert themselves back into their starting positions come Week 1 when the Redskins will square up against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. For Williams, his knee injury forced him to go through a tolling rehabilitation process, which presented a new challenge in his successful nine years in the NFL.
"Obviously the last five months I've been in the cave just rehabbing and getting close to as normal as possible," Williams said during minicamp."It's my first time ever rehabbing from a surgery so I took it extremely seriously. But being back with these guys is definitely uplifting."
Of course, the Redskins have a greater chance for success when these two veterans are fully healthy, but the addition of Christian Sr. gives offensive line coach Bill Callahan some breathing room.
The Ocala, Fla., native played in 39 games during his three seasons playing under Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino. While there is certainly an adjustment in the speed and the level of talent Christian Sr. will go against, it's encouraging to know that he knows how to take care of himself at a young age.
In addition to his durability, the rookie is versatile enough to where he can essentially be thrown into any position on the offensive line. He is most comfortable at tackle, but was utilized at guard and center during his time with an up-tempo Louisville offense headlined by Baltimore Ravens first-round selection and former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.
"His strengths have been pass protection," Callahan said. "That was his strength when he came on, he has position flexibility where he can play right and he can play left. He's really athletic and he's just learning the ropes. This is all new to him. The more reps he gets and the more looks that he can filter through, it's just going to benefit him better."
Check out the top photos of left tackle Trent Williams from the 2017 season.
The Louisville product's youth makes him a promising option in the years to come because he can learn from some of the most consistent players at the position that the league has to offer in Moses and Williams, and from the other rotation players like Ty Nsekhe and T.J. Clemmings.
Both enter their fourth NFL season with a strong amount of experience under their belt, with Clemmings starting in two of the six games he appeared in last year and Nsekhe starting in five of the 11 in which he dressed. Their experience allows the Redskins to stay the course offensively if the injuries to Williams and Moses return.
"I approach it like I approach every week, with full confidence in my abilities, taking practice like a time to perfect my craft," Nsekhe said. "Nothing changes for me, it's just the opportunity now. I'm going to take full advantage of the opportunity."
WHAT TO WATCH:
The most intriguing storyline surrounding this group heading into training camp is if the Redskins will increase the number of tackles from last year's 53-man roster from four to five. Selecting Christian Sr. in the third round gives him a strong chance to make the list, meaning that there could only be one spot available for Nsekhe and Clemmings.
It's just a matter of whether head coach Jay Gruden and co. are willing to forgo another spot elsewhere on the team in order to accommodate the two veterans.
"You know, what we went through at tackle last year was catastrophic with all the injuries and still a lot of these guys are recovering from their injuries,"Gruden said. "Trent [Williams] is recovering still, Morgan [Moses] is still recovering, Ty [Nsekhe] is still recovering, we have TJ [Clemmings] still recovering. So we need depth at tackle."
In addition, watching how this group is able to establish chemistry with Alex Smith throughout training camp is critical to how the Redskins will perform offensively this year. It's encouraging to know that regardless of who makes the roster, the San Diego native will be working with experienced players that have seen change at the quarterback position before. Smith has stood out greatly as a leader in his short time with the team, giving Redskins fans hope that his connection with the tackles will work out well.
"He's a winner. You don't win as many games in this league without top talent," Williams said. "Obviously going No.1 in the draft, he's been at the pinnacle of this sport for a long time. We're lucky to transition from one franchise quarterback and being able to not have any layoff to get another one. As you all know, you don't win in this league without a quarterback so us being able to have one right now does everything for our team and in the faith we have to win."