The Redskins did not address the right tackle position in the NFL Draft last April – and that could result in a glaring need once free agency begins.
Currently, the Redskins have Trent Williams, Jammal Brown, Stephon Heyer, Selvish Capers, Xavier Fulton and Clint Oldenburg listed as offensive tackles on the roster.
It's uncertain if Brown and Heyer will be back with the Redskins when the new league year begins, though. Brown started 14 games last year and Heyer started five games as a reserve, so their departures would force the Redskins to either address the position in free agency or start young, unproven talent.
The Redskins appear set at left tackle with Williams. He had a solid rookie campaign last year and he made progress as the season progressed. Williams also received high marks with the man that matters the most, his head coach Mike Shanahan.
"Trent has as much talent as anyone that I've been around," Shanahan said. "His practice habits, his work ethic, his discipline, his passion for the game have to dictate whether he's a Pro Bowl player, a Hall of Fame player, or just another player in the National Football League."
Williams, the Redskins' first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft, started 13 games last year. He will look to live up the expectations of a franchise tackle. Unless the team dramatically changes course, Williams is expected to start the season at left tackle.
The Redskins acquired Brown in a June 2010 trade with the New Orleans Saints. Brown started opposite Williams at right tackle and he improved as the season progressed. Early on he was still recovering from offseason hip surgeries, though.
"He has been working extremely hard," Shanahan said. "He's a worker, and I don't think a lot of people would be able to play or practice with the pain that he has had."
If Brown does return in 2011, then he would be the early favorite to start at right tackle.
Heyer joined the Redskins as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland in 2007. Since then, he has started 33 games in his career, including five in 2010. He has value in that he can play both the left and right tackle position.
Capers is entering his second NFL season. A 2010 seventh-round draft pick (231st overall), he spent 2010 on the practice squad and did not get any playing time. A veteran of the zone blocking scheme, Capers spent the year learning technique and gaining strength.
Even if the team does add a starter in front of him, Capers remains an intriguing prospect and a name to look for down the road.
"With most players, that jump [in development] comes in between the first and second year," Shanahan said. "It's when they learn how to be a pro, how to get in shape, how to master a system."
Fulton and Oldenburg are in similar situations as they look to earn a roster spot as a reserve tackle. Oldenburg spent last season on injured reserve after joining the Redskins' practice squad in late 2009. Fulton was signed late last season and was offered a futures contract for the 2011 season.
Shanahan is expected to add tackles that best fit the zone blocking scheme that he has implemented in Washington.
"You really don't know what the rules are going to be with free agency this year," Shanahan said. "We'll just have to wait and see."