The Redskins had to adjust the offensive line with numerous injuries throughout the season, but found a potential steady future option at center in rookie Chase Roullier.
One of head coach Jay Gruden's biggest areas of concern on a football team is the center position. After the Redskins drafted Chase Roullier, a guard and converted center from Wyoming last offseason, he pushed this theory again, explaining his excitement for having more depth at a position often unheralded and underrated.
Now with the 2017 season complete, the Redskins' decision to draft Roullier at the end of the sixth round looks like a particularly shrewd move. The team's starting center, Spencer Long, the player Roullier would learn under and maybe replace in the next couple of years, injured his quad during the sixth game of the year. Roullier was forced into early action at center the following week.
Roullier would start the next four games at center for the Redskins but fractured his right hand against the Saints, sidelining him for three weeks before taking the position back to close out the season. It was, in a variety of ways, an eventful rookie year.
"It's a tough game out there and you've got to make sure you maintain your strength and get stronger every year, especially at the position we all play," Roullier said of playing on the offensive line. "That's a huge thing for me, and obviously just staying in good physical shape too, continuing to lean out a little bit and continuing to build good, lean muscle mass. Then, obviously getting some more mental ability to play the game, preparing that way as well is another thing that's very important at center."
Roullier's first taste of the NFL actually came at guard this season, when both Brandon Scherff, then Long, had to leave the Redskins' Monday Night Football matchup with the Eagles in the middle of the contest.
He had been used to playing guard at Wyoming, but hadn't practiced at that position since he joined the Redskins. It took some quick adjusting, but Roullier was glad his first game experience came at a moment's notice.
"It's tough to go in midgame, but in a lot of ways it's actually better I think than starting, because you don't have time to really think about it," Roullier said. "You're just out there playing the game you love to play. Once you have a few reps under your belt, then the start the next week makes it a little easier."
Roullier, who played close to half of the offense's total snaps (457), said that as the weeks progressed, so did his relationship with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Still developing in reading blitzes and pressures, Roullier said Cousins remained a steady guide for questions he had and mistakes he made.
"He helps so much in just being able to see things during the game," Roullier said. "If I make a call that might be a little bit wrong, he's right there behind me to fix that immediately. That helps so much when you have a quarterback that's that smart behind you and is able to fix any little mistake you might make as a rookie center out there. He's done a phenomenal job with that and he's helped me just in the locker room in general too."
It won't be an ideal offseason for Roullier. The Wyoming product needed surgery on his hand that included a plate and screws and he surmises that the rehab process, especially after finishing out the last three games, will continue into the upcoming months.
"Whenever there's a surgery, you kind of have to continually rehab that for weeks," Roullier said. "I've been doing that since I got the surgery and I'm going to have to continue doing that to make sure it's ready to go. It's getting better every week and by the season next year, hopefully I won't have any sort of feeling of my hand needing rehab at that point."
Head coach Jay Gruden was impressed with his young center as the season concluded, saying "he is going to be a very good center for a long time here." Whether that means he'll be the starter as soon as next season is still up for debate, and depends on if the Redskins would like to retain Long.
As for the coming months, Roullier will try to settle in and relax for the first time in more than a year.
"The vets all kind of recommend, they've been telling me to really take a couple weeks," Roullier said. "Don't feel like you have to get into it right away, because you'll get a little burnt out. I'll try to follow that the best I can. I'm guessing I'll be a little eager to get going, but we'll see what happens."