Training Camp Preview - Offensive Line
For the first time since 1999, the Washington Football Team enters a season without a standout left tackle. Sure, Trent Williams didn’t play for Washington in 2019, but he was still on the roster.
After 10 seasons of outstanding play from Chris Samuels at left tackle, Washington transitioned into nine terrific seasons from Williams until the debacle of 2019.
As Washington enters 2020, there is stability at some positions, such as at right guard, where Brandon Scherff is playing on a one-year franchise tag. A Pro Bowl performer, Washington would prefer to keep Scherff around long-term, but new head coach Ron Rivera is in a wait-and-see mode for dishing out big contracts for veterans.
At center, Chase Roullier returns for his fourth season in Washington. A sixth-round pick in 2017, Roullier became a starter early in his career and has never looked back. He played in 43 out of 48 possible games since entering the NFL.
Morgan Moses is back for seventh season in Washington. After signing a long-term contract to remain in D.C. back in 2017, Moses has struggled at times. However, Moses has been a constant presence at right tackle, and likely enters a make-or-break year in 2020. He needs to show Rivera and new offensive line coach John Matsko that he can play consistently for an entire season.
Things are a bit murkier on the left side of the offensive line.
At left guard, Wes Martin, in his second year out of Indiana, is the presumed favorite. Martin played in nine games, making five starts as a rookie, playing in place of Scherff at right guard. Martin can play all three interior positions and is one of the stronger players on the team.
Free-agent addition Wes Schweitzer will compete with Martin. Signed from Atlanta in the offseason, Schweitzer gives Rivera what he wants most out of his offensive linemen, and that is versatility. Schweitzer can also play all three interior spots and provide proper insurance if one of the top three goes down.
The biggest question facing Matsko is who will play left tackle?
Another free agent, Cornelius Lucas, is the best bet for now. Signed to a modest two-year deal in the offseason, Lucas was brought in to provide depth and competition. Unfortunately for Washington, it doesn’t have a left tackle ready to compete right now.
The 6-foot-8, 328-pound Lucas is entering season No. 7. Lucas played well in limited action with Chicago last season.
Ideally, fourth-round rookie Saahdiq Charles wins the job in training camp and never looks back. Charles was terrific during his career at LSU, but there were off-field concerns, which caused him to fall in the NFL Draft.
Charles can be a future Pro Bowler at left tackle. He has terrific athleticism and is a strong run blocker. He has every chance to win the job in camp.
The final contender is third-year veteran Geron Christian. Christian was overdrafted in 2018 out of Louisville in the third round. Christian has yet to prove he is even a capable reserve in the NFL. The new regime has no previous ties to Christian, so he will need to prove he deserves to be on the roster in 2020.
Other tackles on the training camp roster are Paul Adams, Timon Parris, and Kevin Pamphile. Parris, who spent some time on the active roster in each of the last two seasons, appears to have the best opportunity of the final three to stick.
The biggest battles to make the roster could come down to rookie center Keith Ismael and second-year C/G Ross Pierschbacher.
Ismael was a fifth-round pick out of San Diego State and had a solid college career. He is fundamentally sound and could prove to be the team’s replacement for Roullier if the team doesn’t want to pay him after the season.
Pierschbacher was a four-year starter at Alabama and played in five games for Washington last season. He can also play all three interior positions. The lack of a preseason could hurt either of these players, but don’t be surprised if Rivera finds a way to keep both. They are cheap and versatile.
This season is sure to be an uncertain one due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but for several players on Washington’s offensive line, it could be their last year in the burgundy and gold.
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Bryan Manning writes about the Washington Football Team for 'Washington Football' and contributes to "All Hokies" on SI.com. He has covered the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football and college basketball for almost 10 years for various outlets such as Bleacher Report, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today SMG, and others. For his day job, Bryan works in engineering for a major communications company.