The Washington Commanders' offensive line has gone through several shakeups this season, and another one has come with four games left.
With Tyler Larsen going on Injured Reserve, likely for the rest of the season, Wes Schweitzer will slide in at center after dealing with a concussion that kept him out for a chunk of the season. It is hardly the first time Washington has needed a new center. It has been a common problem for Burgundy & Gold to find other options at the position for the past two seasons as Chase Roullier has suffered two season-ending injuries.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner is not worried about Schweitzer filling in the role. Not only has he played the position before, but Turner also believes he is well-suited for it.
"He's a smart guy. He's stout," Turner said. "He's physical, he's a wide body, but he's smart and he can get those guys lined up and then be a good anchor inside to help with a clean pocket."
Schweitzer has played in three games this season with two starts against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3. Schweitzer was activated prior to the last matchup against the New York Giants, and he was thrown into the action once Larsen was carted off the field with a knee injury.
The game ended up being the best of the season so far, according to Pro Football Focus, with an overall grade of 75.5 that was highlighted by an 81.7 pass-blocking grade.
"He played well last week when he had to go in and play guard for us," Ron Rivera said Wednesday. "He is getting an opportunity to get him back to center, which is I think is a great spot for him."
Although he has only allowed two quarterback hits in three games, Schweitzer is performing well as a run blocker. His PFF grade of 68.4 in the category is the second best of his career, and that mark is also the second best on the team behind Sam Cosmi.
That ability to move defensive tackles should be of use against the Giants, who have one of the better interior duos in Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Williams has been dealing with a neck injury all week, so his status for Sunday is in question, but Lawrence had put together a dominant season with 55 tackles and six sacks.
And considering how adamant the Commanders have been at sticking to the run game and finding holes in the middle of the defense, Washington will need all the physicality it can get.
"Smart football player, good football player," Rivera said. "So, he came back at a good time for us."
Here are some more notes from Thursday.
-- Curtis Samuel has been getting a lot of love from his coaches this week, and Turner added to that by saying his confidence has been his biggest area of growth.
"He feels like he can do anything, as he should, and he's done an outstanding job this year and been a really good player for us."
-- The Commanders' defense has been creative with its use of safeties in recent weeks, occasionally putting as many as four in the secondary. That is a credit to the versatility of the position. Kamren Curl is the most obvious example of that, but defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio also feels strongly about the entire position.
"Really, all our safeties have been really good about being versatile, being able to be interchangeable and it helps us put them in position. Their intelligence and their awareness allow us to be successful using them like that."
-- Cosmi played guard for the first time two weeks ago, and while there were some areas he could clean up, Turner thought that he handled himself well in the new role. Cosmi has the talent and size to play at both positions, and Turner hinted that he may be placed at guard again before the season is over.
"That might be something that you see a little bit more of going forward. Like I kind of said the last time we talked, whatever we can do to get our best five out there, we're gonna do, and obviously we like Sam as a player."
-- Del Rio was asked to discuss what he liked about Benjamin St-Juste and Darrick Forrest during the 2021 draft process, and he provided snippets on both players. He described St-Juste as "a long player with exceptional short area quickness," and that combination has allowed him to be a good player. With Forrest, Del Rio saw a player who had "incredible character, speed and toughness."