There's a lot of chatter that happens before a play begins. For the Washington Football Team, center Chase Roullier is the one who breaks the ice.
"He does a great job of getting to the line and communicating to the rest of the line as far as where to block," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner.
The conversations, based on the numbers, have been going well this season. As a team, Washington is fourth in pass block win rate and first in run block win rate. Taylor Heinicke’s pockets have been clean all year, as the offensive line is tied for seventh in sacks allowed, and the team is tied for the fourth-lowest adjusted sack rate.
Roullier, who has the best run block win rate among centers, is at the center of all that, and his teammates can credit his presnap leadership for putting them in the best spot to succeed.
"You can tell the way he kicks out of there with his base, that he's sure, he plays with confidence," said assistant offensive line coach Travelle Wharton. "Chase is a very smart, physical football player, puts his foot, his body into where it needs to be."
While they don't receive nearly as much attention as quarterbacks, centers can be just as important to the way offenses function. While the signal-callers provide some extra communication or can make a different call, they provide the primary guidance on run blocking and pass protection.
"When we see a look that is a new wrinkle, he's right on top of it," Wharton said of Roullier. "Then he comes to the sideline just describing it so we can get it corrected, or we liked the adjustment, but Chase has been doing a great job for us."
Turner doesn't have to look hard for evidence that Roullier is a standout player; he sees it on every play. The effects of his calls aren't only felt by the rest of the offensive linemen. The running backs and tight ends also benefit from his communication.
It's a big reason why Washington's rushing offense has steadily risen from 20th to 13th through eight games.
"Chase is sharp," Turner said. “John Matsko and Travelle, they do a great job with him on that. I mean, they harp on him."
The Washington Football Team gets to work in preparation for a Week 8 matchup with the Denver Broncos. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
Washington will need all of Roullier's savvy heading into Week 8 as it prepares for the Denver Broncos' fifth-ranked defense. The unit is eighth in rushing defense, allowing just 99.3 yards per game, and while the status of Von Miller, who leads the team with 4.5 sacks, is still murky, Denver has seven other players who have recorded at least .5 sacks.
Washington should be up to the challenge, though, and once again, it can thank Roullier for that.
"There's been times where he's redirected a protection to pick up a pressure that he saw coming just based off of film study and things that he's done that we've practiced during the week," Turner said.
The Broncos are also 12th in run stop win rate, but Washington has some factors working in its favor. It has Antonio Gibson, who is 12th in the NFL and averaging 4.0 yards per carry, and J.D. McKissic as his running mate. Taylor Heinicke is also starting to use his legs more often, giving Washington a three-pronged rushing attack.
Regardless of who is carrying the ball, they will need to have open rushing lanes. They can count on Roullier to direct the traffic.
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