Charles Leno Jr. has been one of the Washington Football Team's best offensive linemen all season, and now he's being rewarded for it.
Leno, who has Pro Football Focus’ fifth-highest pass-blocking grade among all offensive linemen with at least 100 snaps, signed a multi-year extension with Washington Friday morning. The signing is the latest move by Washington that shores up its front for years to come.
There were several things Leno could have done as the season draws to a close, namely wait to hit the open market and field other offers before making a decision. Leno chose to stick with the Burgundy & Gold, though, because he has faith in the message head coach Ron Rivera has been preaching and the team's direction.
"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."
That belief starts with Rivera, who has been delivering a message of having the right attitude, preparation and effort that Leno has bought into since his first visit to the facility in May.
"Every single day is…control what you can control, and that's something I firmly believe in," Leno said.
Rivera's lessons go deeper than football, though, and that's something Leno has appreciated about the head coach.
"He's a man that actually understands life," Leno told 106.7 The Fan. "Just talking to him about life really just made me understand, like, you know what, this is exactly the place I want to go."
When it comes to the roster, Leno likes to look at the bright spots, and while the team was riddled with injuries this season, there is a wealth of young players with potential. On the offensive line, Sam Cosmi has the third-highest overall PFF grade among rookie tackles. Players like Dyami Brown and John Bates have made plays in limited roles. And of course the offense has playmakers like Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson.
There were also moments throughout the year that show Leno the offense can be formidable. The 19-play drive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers helped seal the upset over the reigning Super Bowl champions, while drives against the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders show that Washington can win close matchups.
"I think about those types of games…when we were running the ball effectively, getting the ball out and completing the catch, scoring in the red zone," Leno said.
Leno even saw positives in Washington's losses like the ones suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles and the first matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Even though Washington couldn't pull off comebacks in those games, the team stayed competitive until the end and gave itself a chance.
"We don't give up," Leno said. "We're always going to keep pushing and try to keep finishing the game, no matter what the score may be … I know those are winning qualities. I know those are winning characteristics."
Leno has faith that whatever moves the team makes will help move the franchise in the right direction. By securing him to a long term deal, Washington has shown it has just as much belief that he can be an important piece of the team's future.
"The way he affects the other guys around him," Rivera said. "He had a tremendous rapport with the other offensive linemen. He had some leadership qualities I thought that were really good, in terms of his relationship with not just the offensive guys, but guys on the defensive side. Those are the kind of guys you want here."