With training camp set to begin on July 26, Redskins.com previews the current state of the Redskins' roster, continuing today with the team's interior offensive linemen.
The consistency of the offensive line throughout head coach Jay Gruden's tenure has allowed the Redskins to reach the upper echelon of NFL offenses each year. Whether it is allowing the quarterback plenty of time to connect with his wide receivers or creating space for running backs to reach the second level of opposing defenses.
Addition(s): Casey Dunn (College Free Agent)
Subtraction(s): Spencer Long (Signed with the New York Jets)
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
A small amount of turnover should allow this group to establish chemistry early in training camp, which is important for the overall success of the Redskins offense -- especially because second-year center Chase Roullier is tasked with having to quickly familiarize himself with a new quarterback in Alex Smith.
Despite being selected in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Burnsville, Minn., native performed well in his seven starts last year, leading him to become the favorite as the 16-game starter this season. Coming from the University of Wyoming certainly presented its challenges when he making the transition to the professional level, but ultimately gave more inspiration for the 24-year-old to succeed.
"I'm just continuing to get better with fundamentals rather than just trying to learn the offense," Roullier said during OTAs. "That's definitely been the biggest difference. Having a little more comfortability with the offense and being able to go faster.
"I think just the speed of my play. Now that I've got a year under my belt, that's the biggest thing that you can really improve is to play faster. You have it all mentally, a lot of the things mentally built a lot on those and you can just continue to play faster."
Working aside Roullier at the right and left guard positions are veterans Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao.
The two have opened space for Redskins running backs since Scherff was selected out of Iowa with the fifth-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, most notably helping Rob Kelley record over 700 rushing yards during his rookie campaign in 2016.
The consistency of the Iowa product and the nine-year veteran will always give Randy Jordan's running backs an opportunity to succeed, regardless of who is named atop of the depth chart in a few weeks. Even after failing to play in all 16 games for the first time in his career, Scherff was selected to his second-consecutive Pro Bowl last year, proving his value to the Redskins. The Denison, Iowa, native's inspiration simply comes from understanding that his time in the NFL is limited and those that must fight to just land a roster spot, let alone become a weekly starter.
"You can't take a day off," Scherff said. "There are other guys that are trying to do this for a job too and they're trying to take advantage of their opportunity as well. So anytime you get a chance to do it in the offseason, you've always got to get better and take care of your body. Whether it's stretching, eating well, going to the weight room, or getting recovery. I've learned so much. This is my fourth OTAs already which is incredible. It's all about taking care of your body and just doing the little things."
Lauvao, meanwhile, finds himself looking to return to the shape that made him a reliable option for his first few seasons in Washington and with the Cleveland Browns. Despite playing in just nine games last season and being one of the oldest players on the entire offensive line, the former Arizona State Sun Devil remains one of the hardest working players among the Redskins organization.
"He's a warrior, he's a veteran, he's well prepared," offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. "More than that, in the room, in the locker room, in the weight room, you watch him practice, he's just a very conscientious pro. He's a pro's pro. He's a constant pro in that respect. He does everything you want him to do. He works hard, he studies, he knows the game, he can teach he young guys. We really benefited from him coming back."
Of course, the interior offensive line is one of the largest groups among the Redskins roster because it accounts for three positions, with the remaining notable names being former Georgia Bulldog Tyler Catalina and veteran Tony Bergstrom.
Both off their versatility is the key component when looking at what they bring to the offense, as Catalina made two spot starts at guard while Scherff was sidelined last year, with Bergstrom having experience at the center and guard position as well.
While coach Callahan is always looking to throw out the best talent available each week, he appreciates the options that can step in immediately and perform at a high level.
"We had 36 line combinations a year ago, so we kept moving guys all over the place and [Catalina] was one of the younger players that we did and responded well," Callahan said. "To play all of those positions and hold up against NFL competition, it speaks a lot to his efforts and a lot to his preparation. We expect more this year. We'll probably move him around again with a little more time."
Check out these behind the scene photos from the 2018 Washington Redskins' photo shoot day.
WHAT TO WATCH
Like many other positions on the Redskins offense, the biggest thing for this group is to remain healthy. With Trent Williams and Morgan Moses returning from surgeries at the tackle positions, the interior offensive line may need to do more of the heavy sledding while the two veterans return to football shape.
In addition, picking up on the play style of a new quarterback in Smith, rookie running back Derrius Guice, a slimmed-down Rob Kelley, and Chris Thompson returning from ankle surgery will be a great challenge for this group throughout training camp. This task shouldn't necessarily be viewed from a negative perspective, as it hopefully will benefit the Redskins as the season progresses.
"When you play this sport, you're part of a group," Lauvao said during OTAs. "As anything, you want to see them at their best. You're just hoping and praying the best for everybody. At the end of the day, it brings out competition. I think at the end of the day, you're connected with guys at another level, which is pretty cool."