Before Kory Lichtensteiger answered the question Monday afternoon, he wanted to find some wood on which to knock. Two victories from a division title is no time for a jinx.
The truth, however, is undeniable. The Washington Redskins have started the same five offensive linemen in all 14 games.
“It’s nice to not have to adjust, not so much what you’re doing, but the timing of everything just because you’ve got new guys in there that aren’t used to running the offense the way we’re doing it right now,” said Lichtensteiger, the Redskins‘ first-string left guard.
He might have been on to something with that hunch about a jinx, though, because Washington’s good fortune might have expired.
In addition, right tackle Tyler Polumbus suffered a concussion and is subject to the NFL’s return-to-play protocol.
Montgomery and Polumbus ended the game on the sideline. Meanwhile, only two of the five linemen that finished Washington’s win Sunday — left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Chris Chester — did so in the position at which they began the game.
There’s a chance the Redskins could face the same predicament this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. That would be an even bigger issue if quarterback Robert Griffin III plays through his mildly sprained right knee.
“Whatever it is, guys have got to step up and pay at a high level, and we expect them to do that,” Shanahan said.
The Redskins know how problematic offensive line shuffling can be. Injuries and Williams’ four-game drug suspension last season decimated their front en route to a last-place finish and a 5-11 record.
They started eight different offensive line combinations. That resulted in blocking breakdowns, not only because of talent disparities but also timing and chemistry problems.
Despite all the weekly uncertainty, though, the Redskins proceeded through the offseason with the same group of five first-stringers that began the 2011 season. That provided the foundation for this year’s success.
“It goes back to OTAs, working together,” Chester said. “We’ve just been building that chemistry, and it just helps in our communication, which is huge for an offensive line to kind of know what someone’s going to say and know what they’re going to do and just have a feel of how they’re going to play.”
This year’s line is far from perfect. The Redskins actually surrender sacks more often this season — 7.75 percent of dropbacks compared to 6.94 a year ago — and that’s with the ultra-mobile Griffin behind center.
The running game, however, is thriving. The offense, as a whole, has the best yards-per-play average in the league.
The offensive line is an integral part of that, and the Redskins don’t want personnel issues to jeopardize that success.
Right tackle is a major concern this week. In addition to Polumbus‘ concussion, the NFL on Monday suspended second-stringer Jordan Black four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Black replaced Polumbus in the second half of Sunday’s win. He played 43 of 75 offensive snaps, according to the league.
The Redskins brought him back from the cusp of retirement in July when Jammal Brown first aggravated his left hip injury. Black, 32, spent 2011 out of football. He played in every game this season, all but two exclusively on the placekicking protection unit.