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Redskins Offensive Line Making Strides On And Off The Field

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Since last season, the offensive line has become closer off the field, which has translated to their production on the field in 2016.

Before he invited the entire offensive line down to his new Houston workout facility in July, left tackle Trent Williams was already leading bonding, and feasting, sessions at his own home each week during the regular season.

On Thursday nights the entire offensive line came to gather at Williams' house, where the four-time Pro Bowler had his personal chef cook up a different-themed dinner for every week.

"We come together as an O-line," Williams said. "No TV, no nothing. Just sit down together and eat. Just fellowship."

The tradition has continued this season, and the unit's play on the field through six games has seemed to be a reflection of the cohesiveness that Williams has made a concerted effort to establish. The conversation involves football and off-the-field banter and offers them a chance to know each other more personally. But this type of bonding also has a practical purpose.

"It's one of the only positions where you rely on five guys to all be on the same page," Williams said. "Four guys can put their person they're supposed to block on their back, and if one doesn't do his job, it can be a strip-sack fumble, touchdown the other way. That's an extreme case, but that's the truth. We all have to be on the same page at all times."

You won't find any of his teammates disagreeing, which would be the point.

"We do a lot of things to bring us closer, and by doing that it allows us to play harder because you know the guys beside you just not in the work setting, but outside as well," right tackle Morgan Moses said.

"We just hang out and have good fellowship, man," left guard Shawn Lauvao said. "I think the biggest thing is building that continuity and camaraderie."

So far, that's been apparent. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has only been sacked eight times this season, ranked fourth-best in the league, and been hit 31 times. The team is averaging 4.8 rushing yards per carry, a statistic that was enhanced after last Sunday's dominant performance against the Eagles.

Using all three of their running backs – Matt Jones, Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson -- to change the pace, the Redskins netted 230 yards rushing and averaged seven yards per carry against an Eagles team that entered the contest allowing only 73.3 rushing yards per game.

Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 7 game against the Detroit Lions Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.

In the midst of the team's four-game winning streak, the offense has rushed for 525 yards.

"They're professionals. They work hard at it. They're well-coached," Cousins said. "They come out here every day and they want to get better and they look at what they can improve upon. But there's no doubt we have a good group of guys up front and they're a big part of why as a team we were able to win the last four games."

According to Football Outsiders, which analyzes offensive line play using a variety of running circumstances, the Redskins rank in the top third of the league in multiple categories. Only 16 percent of their runs have been stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage, while the Redskins rank fifth in second-level and open field runs – statistics determined by the amounts of yards past the line of scrimmage divided by the total number of carries.

Certain rankings are skewed depending on the quality of a team's running backs, but Washington's O-line can certainly take most of the credit for the last four weeks. It starts, said Morgan Moses, with preparation from offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

"He's a technician. It's like having a cheat sheet before a test," Moses said. "When you have that cheat sheet for the test and you go out there and you see certain looks in the game, your mind is able to say I know that look and you're able to execute and that's what happened on Sunday. We were all on the same page – all 11 of us. We probably played one of our better offensive games."

Since center Kory Lichtensteiger was sent to Injured Reserve after Week 3 with a calf strain, Spencer Long has continued to improve filling in at a position he learned extensively throughout the offseason and training camp in a backup's role.

For the first time, there is real continuity amongst the line – the starting unit has remained largely intact from last season – which has allowed for more growth and production. Williams continues to play at the top of his game, while right guard Brandon Scherff continues to manhandle and maul his opponents in front of him, including Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox last week.

"Spencer moving to a new position and playing center and really being the brains of the operation, him being more familiar with the schemes and where to scheme calls to," Williams said. "Really, it's our willingness to continue to chip away at it. It's starting to open up. Once you do one thing successfully one week, the next week that team is going to be geared up to stop it."

As the Redskins prepare to take on the Lions, a team with a front seven that Williams says is aggressive, "long, rangy and athletic," inside a stadium that can get loud and be imposing, the O-line will once again rely on their cohesiveness as a unit and attempt to overcome another test.

And, if you're wondering what happens at Williams' house when the talking ends and the TV remains off, you've probably forgotten how big all of these men really are, and how many helpings they require.

"Man, a lot of eating. I'll tell you that, man," Moses said. "If we went to a restaurant, we'd probably shut the restaurant down."

Just don't be late.

"If you're not there on time," Scherff warned, "you're pretty much out of luck because it's all gone before everybody gets there."

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