Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
With the Washington Football Team just a few weeks removed from the season finale and a critical offseason on the horizon, it's time to turn the page to the 2022 campaign.
Over the next two weeks, washingtonfootball.com will break down every position group and lay out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft. Here are the position groups covered so far:
Next up is the offensive line:
On the roster
In a season that saw Washington's roster get ravaged by injuries and COVID-19 outbreaks, there were few positions affected as much as the offensive line.
Sam Cosmi, Washington's second-round pick that became the starting right tackle, played in just nine games thanks to injuries a brief time in the league's COVID-19 protocols. Chase Roullier suffered a season-ending injury before the bye week. Brandon Scherff also missed seven games, although that didn't stop him from being voted to his fifth Pro Bowl.
As a result, Washington played with a patch-work offensive line, even being forced to go with its fourth-string center. It still ended up being one of the best groups in the league and one of the team's biggest strengths.
"Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the way they work," said head coach Ron Rivera. "They've got tremendous work ethic. As a group, they're a very close-knit group."
That wasn't much that Washington's offensive line didn't accomplish in 2021. It sat atop ESPN's run-block win rate with a 75% success rate, with Scherff and Cosmi finishing the year first and third in their respective positions. What about pass-blocking? The group finished ninth with a 63% success rate. Charles Leno Jr., the only member of Washington's starting offensive line who played the entire season, won 92% of his pass-blocking snaps (10th).
Relive the highlights from each week of the Washington Football Team's 2021 season by scrolling through the top photos of the year. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Karlee Sell and Joseph Noyes/Washington Football Team
And when it comes to Pro Football Focus' metrics, the top spots are littered with players wearing the Burgundy & Gold. Roullier had the fourth spot in overall grades for centers (his replacement, Keith Ismael, also appeared in the Top 20); three guards, Scherff, Wes Schweitzer and Ereck Flowers Sr., finished 14th, ninth and 16th, respectively; and Leno received the second-highest pass-blocking grade for tackles.
"I really do appreciate the coaching that those guys get as well," Rivera said. "Not that all the other positions aren't being coached as well. It's just the offensive line is a completely different mentality. It's a different way of thinking."
With those kinds of numbers, it only made sense that Washington would lean more heavily on its run game after the bye week. It ended up paying off in dividends, too, and Washington ended the year 12th in rushing. It was fueled by an exemplary month of November, which saw Washington start a 4-0 win streak and average 137 yards per game in that span.
"I like our guys. I do," Rivera said. "And I think it could not just be them, but just the fact that playing a physical brand of football speaks well to what we can be speaks more volume."
Washington got an early jump on securing its starting lineup for the foreseeable future by extending Leno, who signed a one-year deal during the offseason. Leno, who has now started in 110 consecutive games, was a reliable leader all season for Washington's young players and bought into Rivera's message. The season, which ended 7-10, is far from ideal, but what Leno saw in 2021 gave him hope for the future.
"The roster we have, it's a very good roster," Leno said. "Not only with talent we have, just the fight that the team shows. Those are…characteristics that you want in a team. I believe in that."
Washington will have future questions about the team this offseason -- Scherff as well as quality backups Cornelius Lucas and Tyler Larsen are set to be free agents in March. Washington has the money to spend on one or all three of those options, if desired, but it does have plenty of confidence in the options at its disposal.
Scherff will be a free agent after spending the past two seasons with the franchise tag. As stated above, Washington does have the ability to re-sign him, but other options include Andrew Norwell, Alex Lewis and Laken Tomlinson. Check out the full list of free agent offensive linemen, HERE.
Washington's depth makes it unlikely that it would spend a high pick on an offensive lineman, particularly at tackle, but given that Rivera likes to keep a healthy number on the roster, it's possible the team could add to its depth. Check out the list of offensive line prospects, HERE.