There are about 90 players on the roster of the Washington Redskins right now, but the team will have to trim down to a final roster of 53 before the start of the 2016 season. Here is an early look at what that roster might look like, position by position. This time we cover the offensive line. Starters in bold.
ON THE ROSTER: Kory Lichtensteiger, Austin Reiter
LIKELY TO MAKE THE ROSTER: Kory Lichtensteiger
ANALYSIS: The question here is whether Kory Lichtensteiger, who missed 11 regular season games with injury in 2015, can return at least one more time to reclaim his starting job. It’s a good sign that the team thought enough of him to activate him for the playoff loss to Green Bay even after missing three months of games. It’s another good sign for Lichtensteiger that the team’s coaches appear to still think highly of him.
“He’s had a productive offseason,” offensive line coach Bill Callahan said of Lichtensteiger in June. “He’s been the leader. He’s been smart for us.” Callahan further praised the 31-year-old as someone who “gets us in the right calls, and that’s what you ask of your guy. To make sure that, through all of the multiple looks [from the defense] that you’re going to get, that he gets you into the right situation, gets you into the right scheme. Really, he’s like the quarterback of the offensive line on the field.”
If it sounds like the team is content to go into 2016 with Lichtensteiger as the starting center, that’s because it is. “We’re really pleased with his progress,” Callahan told reporters in June. “He’s done a great job, a tremendous job. He’s a great leader, a good veteran in the room. So we’re fortunate to have him and looking forward to the fall.”
It did not always seem it would go this way. Redskins GM Scot McCloughan coveted Alabama center Ryan Kelly in the NFL Draft, but the Indianapolis Colts snapped him up with the 18th pick before the Skins could get their hands on him. However, when Washington selected no centers in the draft and made no moves at the position in free agency, the road for Lichtensteiger to return was cleared. Sure, Spencer Long, who started 13 games at left guard in 2015, has been working at center during the Spring OTA, but only with the second team. Right now, he is not considered a suitable replacement for Lichtensteiger. Perhaps in 2017, but not now.
Austin Reiter will get a chance to win a backup job on the interior of the line, but he’s mostly only suited to play center, which greatly hampers his prospects. Both Spencer Long and Josh LeRibeus [pictured above] will battle for the backup job to Lichtensteiger, as well as competing at the guard positions. Long will either be the starting left guard if he can outplay promising youngster Arie Kouandjio and veteran Shaun Lauvao, who is coming off a severe injury that cost him the last 13 games of 2015, or will back up at left guard and center. LeRibeus’ position is less secure and he will have to step up his game to remain as a backup at both guard positions and center.