Redskins Training Camp Preview: Center and Guards
Today we continue our annual survey of the Redskins roster, seeking to determine which players are most likely to make the final 2013 team and which are not. We will look at every position on the roster and today we cover guards and center.
ON THE ROSTER: Kevin Matthews [C], Will Montgomery [C], Tevita Stevens [C], Chris Chester [G], Adam Gettis [G], Maurice Hurt [G], Josh LiRibeus [G], Kory Lichtensteieger [G/C]
STARTERS: Will Montgomery [C], Chris Chester [G], Kory Lichtensteiger [G/C]
BACKUPS: Adam Gettis [G], Maurice Hurt [G], Josh LiRibeus [G]
ON THE BUBBLE: Kevin Matthews [C], Tevita Stevens [C]
ANALYSIS: I graded Montgomery as the second-best lineman on the Redskins last year and one of two playing at a Pro Bowl level. Montgomery didn’t have a single bad game, though he did have a couple of mediocre performances. However, more often he played very well, particularly as a run-blocker. Montgomery had games against New Orleans, St. Louis, Carolina, Philadelphia and Dallas that were truly special and he did this in the first year of his new contract, giving Redskins fans reason to hope that resting on his laurels is not part of Montgomery’s career plan.
I graded Kory Lichtensteiger out as the second-worst offensive lineman on the team last year, but only because Tyler Polumbus was even worse. Lichtensteiger had only one good game — week two against the Rams — and several terrible games. In the games against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia [the first game], Dallas [the first game] and Cleveland, Lichtensteiger just downright bad. Interestingly, he was a better pass-blocker than run-blocker, but he wasn’t very good at either. He also had far too many penalties [10!], some of them inexcusable since he plays right next to the ball. Lichtensteiger’s strength is that he can play center, but he was not a good player last year. Perhaps some of that is working through his season-ending injury in 2011, when he played much better. Redskins fans must hope so because if Lichtensteiger returns to his 2011 form, the offensive line should be in good shape. If he plays in 2013 the way he did in 2012, though, the team must hope that one of its 2012 draft picks can replace Lichtensteiger in the lineup.
Chester improved from a so-so 2011 to a solid 2012, when he was only the third-best player on the line, but he was a very solid third place. I had Chester down for only two bad games and seven good games, which is an excellent ratio. He was a better-than-average run blocker and an even better pass blocker and he did a far better job than Lichtensteiger at avoiding penalties [only three]. Chester has a headlock on that right guard spot and won’t be moved if he’s healthy.
Adam Gettis, a 5th round pick in 2012, didn’t play at all last season, thanks to the great health enjoyed by Washington’s offensive line. He’s now had a season in the system, though, so he should be more reliable if he’s called upon to play this season. Until we see Gettis in a real game it is hard to know what we have in the second year guard. Josh LiRibeus, a third rounder in 2012, didn’t start a game in 2012, but he did play in five regular season contests and the playoff loss to Seattle, so we know a bit more about him. He’s a bit of a mauler, but I thought he played fairly well in the playoff game in relief of Lichtensteiger. Unfortunately, LiRibeus showed up for minicamps and OTAs this year out of shape and overweight. That’s not terribly uncommon for a second year offensive lineman and I’m sure he will round in to shape quickly by the time training camp starts. He should because although Lichtensteiger is the starter right now, a strong camp and preseason from LiRibeus could allow him to challenge for the starting job. We’ll see if he’s up to it.
Maurice Hurt is a 2011 7th rounder who can play guard and center and saw some action in relief of Tyler Polumbus last season. He doesn’t look like a starter to me, but his versatility could help him stick around. Players who can handle more than one position are greatly valued, particularly along the offensive line.
PREDICTION: Montgomery, Chester and Lichtensteiger should all start the season if they’re healthy, though LeRibeus has a shot at Lichtensteiger’s job if he has a good camp and preseason. Expect LeRibeus and Gettis to make the team, as well, with Hurt possibly the odd man out if others can take his place as backup tackle.