There are any number of positions on a football field that are more entertaining to watch than the offensive line, but there are few more critical to a team’s success.
In 2013 NFL.com ranked Washington’s offensive line as 19th in the league, allowing 43 sacks and 96 quarterback hits. If the Redskins hope to make good use of new offensive weapons like DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, they need an O-line that will give quarterback Robert Griffin III the opportunity to make plays.
But they enter camp with a bit of a question mark in the middle.
Will Montgomery, who started at center for much of the last three seasons, was released earlier this spring. Instead of looking outside the organization, Washington is hoping to fill the void with a familiar face.
Kory Lichtensteiger, who has played guard since coming to Washington as a free agent before the 2010 season, has shifted over and is the front-runner to start at center this fall. Lichtensteiger has not regularly started at center since his senior year at Bowling Green State University in 2007, but his confidence does not seem shaken.
“I was the backup center last year I played it in preseason games on and off throughout my career,” said Lichtensteiger. “The shift feels pretty natural. It wasn’t one of those things where you know it was a huge adjustment kind of thing.”
Lichtensteiger has impressed coaches and teammates this spring with his abilities at his new position, but new coach Jay Gruden isn’t ready to anoint him the starter just yet.
“Kory is obviously very athletic. [He’s] done a good job at center,” said Gruden. “Mike McGlynn is here. He can play center, both guards. [Offensive lineman] Ronald [Tevita] Stevens had a great couple days in OTAs, he’s competing with them at center-guard. [Guard] Chris Chester can play center also, so there’s competition there, I promise you that.”
Despite all the competition Lichtensteiger has emerged as the favorite at the position because of his mobility and experience.
“Kory, right now is doing the best out of anybody and he’s had a very good camp,” Gruden said
Robert Griffin III is meshing with his new center as well, which is critical to the success of whoever will be playing the position in the fall.
“The Steig man!” Griffin said when asked about Lichtensteiger. “He’s doing a great job. He’s a more athletic offensive lineman, he can run. We’ve got clean snaps from the ‘gun and from under center so it’s been going well.”
The Redskins hope that by adding pieces like McGlynn and Morgan Moses as well as moving position players like Lichtensteiger around they can get the results they need from their line.
Griffin is staying upbeat about the team’s talent on the line and is confident that this group will get results in 2014.
“I think everybody’s coming in doing a great job on the offensive line,” Griffin said. “We have a group here that’s been here for a while and we’ve got a couple new additions. I think the competition will be great. It’s great for everybody.”
Whether or not Lichtensteiger is the long-term answer at center remains to be seen, but the initial prognosis is good.
“I’ve not seen any issue,” said Gruden. “Kory’s done a great job at center. He’s coming, it’s a natural transition for him. He’s great in the run game, he gets up to the second level with ease and in the pass protection with the calls that he’s making already, he’s done a great job already. We’re excited about what he brings to the table, both in the run game and in the pass game.”
With months of work ahead of him, Lichtensteiger figures to get more comfortable in his new role, and though nothing is set in stone yet Redskins fans should expect to see him feeding the ball to Griffin come September.
“Everyday [I’m] working on little things like footwork and technique,” said Lichtensteiger. “Just kind of getting back into the swing of it being the fulltime guy there, but it’s going really well.”