The battle in the trenches is one that often doesn't draw major attention, but it could become a key matchup for the Washington Redskins' offense this Sunday.
When the Redskins welcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to FedExField, their offensive line will be trying to stop one of the game's premiere defensive linemen in Gerald McCoy.
A first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 2013, McCoy has caught the eye of Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who says McCoy reminds him of an NFL Hall of Famer that spent the first nine years of his career with the Buccaneers.
"When you watch guys that really flash as offensive coach, defensively he really jumps off the screen at you," McVay said. "As a three technique, he's exactly what you're looking for in their Tampa 2 scheme just like Warren Sapp was back in the day."
Now in his fifth season, McCoy has drawn plenty of comparison to the former AP Defensive Player of the Year. This season, Oklahoma product has made 22 tackles (18 solo) while recording five sacks, highlighted by an eight-tackle effort in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.
McCoy, who signed a seven-year contract extension reportedly worth up to $98 million in October, does a good job winning at the point of attack and finding his way into the offense's backfield, McVay says.
"He's an incredible player," McVay said. "He's a great penetrator. When he's involved in games, he ends up doing a great job being able to penetrate, get edges on guys."
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said that McCoy is especially good at getting off the ball. With his ability to explode off the line scrimmage and disrupt things at the point of attack, Gruden says he can alter plays that he's not even near.
"The big thing is he does a great job at timing the snap count and getting off," Gruden said. "And, really, plays that he doesn't make he has a lot of impact on because he gets penetration in the backfield and alters the back courses in the running game and makes the quarterback step up where other guys can help out."
While guard Chris Chester agrees that mixing up the snap count will help, changing up the play calling and keeping McCoy, and the rest of the defense, from picking up tendencies is also very important.
"That's part of it, part of it is switching inside run, outside run, different type of gap scheme runs, things like that, where he can't really keep doing the same thing where he has to honor certain schemes," Chester said.
From play calling to blocking schemes, Gruden also wants to keep the offense unpredictable throughout the game as to not let Tampa Bay get comfortable defensively.
"It is going to be very important for us to try to neutralize [McCoy] at the line of scrimmage sometimes with some double teams or change the snap count or have different blocking patterns and all that," Gruden said. "Run away from him, run at him."
Ultimately, Chester thinks that it will take a team effort from the offense if they want to find success on Sunday. Whether it's with another offensive lineman or a running back, avoiding difficult one-on-one matchups with McCoy is something they hope will prevent him from becoming a factor.
"You want to avoid that as much as possible, but also that's part of the game," Chester said. "We've done some things where it's not just one-on-one as much and you have some help from the tackle or the center or the back. We do things like that to help."