From an outside perspective, it might seem like suffering a torn MCL in his rookie year, starting just two games in 2019 and lining up against a formidable defensive line while competing for a starting spot in 2020 is not ideal for left tackle Geron Christian Sr.
That is not the way Christian sees it, though, because he knows everything that went into getting him to this point in his career. He was taking mental reps while recovering from his injury, learning from veterans last year and fine-tuning his technique in the offseason.
All those factors helped him realize that he "couldn't have asked for a better situation." And even though he is competing to be the Washington Football Team's starting left tackle, he doesn't plan on being complacent with his recent progress.
"Just steady trying to work, trying to find something every day to improve," Christian told the Washington Football Team website. "Trying to put myself in an uncomfortable situation where I won't get too comfortable. I'm still competing for the spot. We still got other guys that are working. And so just trying to come to work every day and find something to get better at."
With Trent Williams and Morgan Moses set as Washington's tackles when he was drafted in 2018, Christian didn't receive many snaps in his rookie season. He made his debut against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8, but then he tore his MCL the following week and spent the rest of the season on Injured Reserve.
Christian was more active in his second season with two starts and 146 offensive snaps in 16 games, but he still was not a regularly featured part of the offensive line. One of the only things he could do in his first two years was watch and learn from Williams, Moses and 12-year veteran Donald Penn.
"I tell everybody I'm really appreciative of the situation I've been in because being around those guys, having that relationship," Christian said. "I feel like being able to be around those guys, build those relationships, helped put me in a better position right now."
As Christian enters his third season, Williams and Penn are both gone, meaning the starting left tackle spot is open.
That work began in the offseason while he was training with Adrian Peterson and Williams in Houston. From what Peterson saw over the summer, Christian was "on a mission."
"He showed that by how he worked and how he came in and the effort that he put in," Peterson told reporters Aug. 23. "...so there's a different feel of 'Wow, the spot is open finally for sure. This is something that I can take over.'"
It also involves watching film on different offensive linemen whenever he has free time to look for any details in their technique that he can add to his own. Christian's favorite linemen groups to watch include the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears because of their hand usage. He also watches film on individual players like Williams and Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith because of their skillset.
"If I can learn something from them," Christian said, "I try it out in practice, regardless if it's a different strike or a different angle or...trying to get my pads down or whatever the case may be."
It's good that Christian is focusing so hard on mastering his technique, because he is routinely going against first-round picks like Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Those are tough matchups in practice, but Christian likes the work he's getting on a daily basis.
"You gotta bring your 'A game,'" Christian said. "As far as experience, this is probably the best situation I could be in because these are the guys that'll be playing on Sunday. They're just as good, if not better than the defensive lines that we're going to play. So, just being able to go against them is going to have me ready for Sunday."
So far, all Christian's work has paid off. Head coach Ron Rivera said Christian has "caught their attention" because of his performance on the field.
"The biggest thing with Geron more so than anything else is that he's an athletic football player," he said. "He moves very well. He's a smart, young man who's picked things up very nicely. He just hasn't had a chance to play a lot of football, so we're really interested in watching him, especially if he's going to play and participate and do some of the things he's done."
Christian has been getting reps with the starters, but he is still trying to learn as much as possible. He's listening to offensive line coach John Matsko, who Christian said is pushing him every day, and even taking some advice from Peterson because of his experience working with other offensive linemen.
"Christian is doing a great job of filling in that blank space that we had and working to get better," Peterson said. "He's coming around. From what I'm able to see he looks good."
Christian regrets some aspects of how he approached his situation in previous seasons. He should have prepared harder, he said, and had a better mindset. But he has learned from those experiences, and now there is an opportunity for him to be Washington's next starting left tackle. His teammates believe he is in position to take it.
"He's playing fast, he's playing strong," Peterson said. "so it's up for grabs for him to take over that spot."