The Washington Commanders will be without two starters on the offensive line, as Tyler Larsen and Charles Leno Jr., neither of which have practiced all week, will miss the team's Week 16 matchup against the New York Jets.
The Commanders will also be without Brian Robinson Jr. for the second straight week because of a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined since Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins. He stretched with the team each day but worked out on the side field going through rehab.
Larsen was elevated to the team's starting center position following the Commanders' 14-7 loss to the New York Giants in Week 7, when Sam Howell was sacked six times. His presence has helped bring stability to the offensive line due to his knowledge of the system and helping out with protection calls. Although Howell is still one of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL, the number has been at a more manageable level.
Howell has not been sacked more than four times since the first Giants loss. That might not sound positive (it's not in the grand scheme of things), but considering the Commanders were giving up an average of nearly six sacks per game from Weeks 1-7, it at least helps the offense function more efficiently at times.
Leno has been a constant for an offensive line that has gone through several changes since he was first signed in 2021. He has played and started in 47 games for Washington.
Nick Gates and Cornelius Lucas will take their place at center and tackle, respectively. Gates, who started the first seven games of the season, played 16 snaps in the Commanders' 28-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, posting his best pass-blocking grade of the year with zero pressures allowed. Lucas, a serviceable backup for the Commanders since 2020, also played solid with just one pressure allowed in 17 snaps.
With Robinson out again, Antonio Gibson is expected to have a larger role in the running game, which is one of the weak spots on the Jets' top 10-ranked defense. They've allowed 127.9 yards per game, which is the sixth worst in the league. Gibson is on track for a career-low 253 yards, but he's averaging 4.2 yards per carry, which is the second best of his career. He's also been productive as a pass-catcher with 342 yards on 42 receptions and two scores.
Sixth-round rookie Chris Rodriguez Jr. should also be more involved in the game play, just as he was last week against the Rams, when he received 10 carries for 35 yards.
"I think first, a big part for him is just understanding how to play fast," coach Ron Rivera said last Friday. "It's a little different obviously, when you get to this level that you've got to play with good tempo, good speed. But at the same time, he's got a good natural feel for the inside outside zones."
The Commanders also elevated Jonathan Williams from the practice squad last week to compensate for Robinson's absence, but with Williams in the concussion protocol, they could choose to do the same with veteran Derrick Gore, who has played in three games for Washington and had a 23-yard run against the Giants in Week 11.
James Smith-Williams, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, will be active against the Jets, giving the Commanders another pass-rusher who was having a solid season with four starts and 14 tackles. John Ridgeway III, who has been limited all week with a foot injury, will also be active. Backup defensive tackle Joshua Pryor will miss Sunday's game with an illness.