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Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

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Earlier this offseason, Redskins.com staff reviewed the 2011 play of the offensive tackles and guards/centers. With training camp set to begin next week, it's time to preview the current state of the Redskins' offensive line.

After a season in which the Redskins lost four-of-five starters on the offensive line for extended periods of time, the team was expected to bolster the unit this offseason.

Instead, the team made under-the-radar additions, signing four free agents and devoting three mid-to-late-round draft picks to the line.

Training camp competition may be fierce for depth, but if everyone stays healthy, the starting unit could look very familiar.

ROSTER SUBTRACTION(S):

Free agent Sean Locklear (OT).

KEY ADDITION(S):

Draft pick Josh LeRibeus (OG)

Draft pick Adam Gettis (OG)

Draft pick Tom Compton (OT)

Free agent James Lee (OT).

CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:

Ideally, the Redskins greatest offseason acquisition will be healthy legs, as Jammal Brown and Kory Lichtensteiger look to showcase their improved health.

Before his four-game suspension, left tackle Trent Williams was showing the dominance that made him a top pick in 2010.  Head coach Mike Shanahan has called him the key to the line, as he will look to blossom into a franchise tackle in 2012.

After beginning his rookie season on the practice squad, Maurice Hurt filled the void left by Lichtensteiger for the second half of the season.  He joins Tyler Polumbus as a player versatile enough to fill the swing-tackle role, and competent enough to start.

Adding Lee to the mix gives the Redskins a veteran insurance policy with starting experience.  Not only was he young and available, but he is also a player that both Raheem Morris and Bruce Allen have experience with.

Willie Smith was an undrafted gem discovered by Shanahan and his staff last preseason.  After playing his way onto roster, Smith impressed on short notice last year. Long-term, he could be the answer at right tackle.  Short-term, he could be a primary backup for Brown and/or Williams.

In LeRibeus and Gettis, the Redskins add a pair of interior linemen that fit the zone scheme and can play guard or center. Compton is more of a developmental pick, but a potential steal coming out of an unheralded program in South Dakota.

Veteran free agent Nevin McCaskill, and college free agents Grant Garner and Nick Martinez round out this group.

Don't discount the contributions of unheralded draft picks and undrafted rookies in the Shanahan system. Just last season, linemen Hurt (seventh round, 217th overall), Erik Cook (seventh round, 229th overall), Willie Smith (undrafted) and Polumbus (undrafted) had a combined 17 starts.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

Unlike training camp last year, this unit has the luxury of health and experience throughout the depth chart. 

The Redskins hope to keep everyone healthy in 2012, but if called upon, the reserves should be capable and competent. 

Look for good competition from the reserve spots, and possibly challenges to the starting unit.  Expect the winners of those competitions to have good versatility (ability to play inside and outside on the line), and the talent to step in and play at a high level.

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