The Washington Redskins on Sunday used an offensive line group that had yet to play together in a game. They performed well in pass protection but struggled setting up the run.
It was a matchup of Pro Bowlers and first-round picks against a group that had just 14 career starts combined, but the Washington Redskins' offensive line on Sunday held the New York Jets to just one sack.
With three-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams and longtime starter Kory Lichtensteiger both out, the team relied on Ty Nsekhe and Josh LeRibeus to fill in at left tackle and center.
Judging by their play in pass protection, though, you would have never guessed that either had never started an NFL game at their respective positions.
"We've got [Bill] Callahan, who's got us prepared every week," LeRibeus said. "We knew the game plan and they gave us what we thought we were going to get. We got after it."
LeRibeus was making his first career start at center, a position he was shifted over to during the offseason as part of a "natural progression" according to Callahan.
LeRibeus admitted that there "was probably a little anxiety maybe in the first series" on Sunday, but he quickly calmed down as the game went on.
"It was good to get the full game and finally get the muscles prepared," LeRibeus said. "The calves were really tight towards the end, but I think we fought through it. We kept communicating, never got down, and were positive the whole time, and we'll turn it around next week."
Nsekhe was perhaps the biggest surprise on the team's 53-man roster after final cut downs last month.
The veteran journeyman spent parts of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints before signing with the Redskins in May.
While it was a monumental moment for the 6-foot-8, 325 pounder to get his first career start, he approached the game just like any other.
Check out these top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 6 matchup against the New York Jets Oct. 18, 2015, at MetLife Stadium.
"I've been preparing for this all my life," Nsekhe said. "So I just went out there and did what I know how to do best. Preparing for it, every week I practice like I'm going to play so it was nothing to prepare."
Spencer Long – who started at left guard alongside LeRibeus – wasn't concerned about their ability to jump right in and fill the veterans' role while they were out.
"They were ready to go," Long said. "It's all about next man in, too. Injuries are going to happen, that's football and we had two guys come in and do a heck of a job. We just got to keep moving off this and, like I said, watch film and improve and move on."
While the offensive line was able to subdue the Jets' pass rush, they played a part in a running game that mustered just 34 total yards on 17 carries.
Jay Gruden said their struggles on the ground, which started well before the Jets game, is a combination of numerous issues, the offensive line included.
"Our run blocking hasn't been good enough," Gruden said on Monday. "Our recognition of where the holes are at times hasn't been good enough. We've haven't broken many tackles. So we've got to stick with it. We've got to stick with the plan and before the season started, that was going to be a heavy, major emphasis on how we were going to be successful is to have a good, strong running game. That has not been the case the last couple of weeks; hence we've lost the last two games. So, we've got to get back to where we want to get and that's running the football and getting better at it."