Redskins Training camp Preview: Offensive Tackle
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 offensive tackle.
ON THE ROSTER: Jacolby Ashworth, Tom Compton, Xavier Nixon, Tony Pashos, Tyler Polumbus, Jeremy Trueblood, Trent Williams
STARTERS: Trent Williams
BACKUPS: Tony Pashos, Tyler Polumbus
ON THE BUBBLE: Jacolby Ashwoth, Tom Compton, Xavier Nixon, Jeremy Trueblood
ANALYSIS: 2012 was the year Trent Williams needed to put it all together and become an elite left tackle and that’s what happened. Williams cleaned up his act on and off the field and justified his 4th overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. He started and finished all 16 regular season games, as well as the playoff loss, and played poorly only once — the Thanksgiving Day win over Dallas. Other than that, Williams was either solid or spectacular all season, with particularly strong games against Tampa Bay, the NY Giants [both games], Baltimore and Seattle. He was clearly Washington’s best offensive lineman last season, besting his teammates in both run and pass blocking. Williams will be a starter in 2013 and for many years beyond as long as he stays healthy.
The right tackle will see a major battle for the starting and backup jobs. Tyler Polumbus held the job last year after Mike Shanahan foolishly banked on perenially-injured-and-now-departed Jammal Brown. Polumbus was not ready for the job and it showed, as he played very poorly the first five weeks of the season. He steadied himself in week 6 against the Vikings, but slipped back badly against the Panthers and Steelers in the middle of the season. He missed week 16 due to injury, played poorly against the Cowboys in the season finale, but finally right himself in the playoff loss, playing well against a very good Seattle defense. Polumbus committed only one penalty all season, but maybe he should have committed more, since he fared poorly in the run and pass games and was just as bad as Williams was brilliant. His eight sacks allowed — including three against the Panthers — was a major problem. The main issue at right tackle is if Polumbus can overcome his humble beginnings — he was an undrafted free agent in 2008 — and become more than he has been. The Redskins publicly maintain confidence, but I’m less sure. Polumbus didn’t really earn the starting job, it fell to him when Brown was predictably unable to play. And Polumbus did very little in the regular season to keep the job, it’s just that the team had no better options. How committed are the Redskins to Polumbus? There are two tells: He was signed to a very modest contract and, before that, Mike Shanahan allowed Polumbus to make a free agent visit to Jacksonville. In other words, the Skins want Polumbus until something better shows up– which they hope will happen soon.
Facing an unjust $18 million penalty from the NFL, the Redskins have been unable to address the right tackle position properly in free agency and trading away first round picks in 2013 and 2014 for Robert Griffin III [definitely the right thing to do] has made it difficult to fix the position in the draft. So the team decided to just sign a couple of cheap veterans and hope one of them will come through. Tony Pashos, formerly of Baltimore, is 32, played 9 years in the league, and is very possibly the strongest player on the team, particularly in the upper body. He missed all of last season due to injury, but the Redskins signed him in March of this year and expect him to be healthy, which he reportedly is. Due to his experience and the fact that, when healthy, he’s at least an average right tackle, Pashos is probably the best bet to start at right tackle this season. His age and injury history mean he’s not a long-term solution, but the Redskins just need him to get them through this season, after which the salary cap penalty will be lifted, the team will be far under the salary cap, and, perhaps, someone like Tom Compton will be ready to step into the role.
“He has a big time future with the Redskins,” Mike Shanahan said of Compton last year. I thought Compton played fairly well in the preseason last year, though he struggles with spin moves and he’d see a lot of that as a starter. If he can fix his problems with the spin move, Compton could be a decent starting right tackle this year. However, with RG3‘s health still a sensitive subject at Redskins Park, I won’t be surprised if the Redskins favor Pashos in 2013 and wait for 2014 to give Compton a realistic shot at the starting job. Clearly, though, the coaching staff likes Compton and sees him as a future starter.
Jeremy Trueblood is a training camp body and not much else. He’s never been very good and in recent years he’s been downright terrible. If he makes the team it means the Redskins are as far away from solving their right tackle problems as ever. Jacolby Ashworth played tackle in college before switching to guard in his last year, so he could play either position for the Redskins. In any case, he seems like a long shot to me at guard or tackle. Xavier Nixon is a player I was hoping the Redskins would sign if he went undrafted and they did. He’s got real potential and great size and athleticism. He was far too inconsistent in college, but he played a ton of games against very good competition, so the possibility of a real NFL player is there. I suspect by 2014 the right tackle job will be between Compton and Nixon.
PREDICTION: Williams starts at LT, of course, with Pashos winning the nod at RT. Compton is a not-so-dark horse to steal the RT job from Pashos, but it is possible Polumbus improves mightily and holds on to his job. Nixon is likely headed for the practice squad and Trueblood and Ashworth should be cut.