- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

ASHBURN — Trent Williams stood still at the line of scrimmage as Mario Addison blew past him.

The Carolina Panthers’ defensive end rushed toward Kirk Cousins, where running back Chris Thompson was helplessly waiting in his attempt to provide the Washington Redskins‘ quarterback some protection. On the other side, defensive end Ryan Delaire bolted past right tackle Morgan Moses. Addison and Delaire converged on Cousins and drove the quarterback’s face into the grass at Bank of America Stadium.

Williams remained in his stance until Addison was nearly two yards behind him. After the play, the Redskins‘ left tackle held his arms out in disbelief.

It wasn’t that Williams got a bad jump. Center Josh LeRibeus botched the snap count, an error that has become too common in recent weeks. The Redskins were fortunate that Cousins — or anybody else on the offense — was not injured on the play in a 44-16 loss on Sunday.

LeRibeus has played five games in place of Kory Lichtensteiger, who lost the strength in his neck and left shoulder after pinching a nerve seven weeks ago and was placed on short-term injured reserve. LeRibeus, who made the transition from guard to center in training camp, has struggled with inaccurate snaps and poorly timed counts.

The Redskins remain committed to LeRibeus as the starter, even after signing free agent center Brian de la Puente two weeks ago.

“The snaps have been a little bit of an issue,” coach Jay Gruden said on Monday. “They weren’t the downfall of our offense by any stretch. We had one that — was a very big [one] — he snapped it when he wasn’t supposed to and nobody was ready. We gave up a sack on that one, but the snaps have been getting a little bit better and Josh has continued to work on them. That’s what we have to do — just continue to work on them. Josh is playing OK, but we have got to work on the location of the snaps and when to snap them.”

If Cousins has to reach left, right, high or low to retrieve the ball, like he had to at times against the New Orleans Saints or New England Patriots, it can disrupt the timing of the play, but the offense can recover. Forgetting the snap count, however, is a paramount concern.

Against the Patriots, Moses remained frozen as defensive end Chandler Jones raced past him and sacked Cousins. The Redskins‘ right tackle drew criticism for missing the play, but it was the snap count that was off. A week earlier, the Redskins were penalized for a false start when four offensive linemen moved. LeRibeus had not snapped the ball.

“It should never happen, just like our defensive line should never jump offsides and we should never jump offsides on offense,” Gruden said. “The advantage is we see the ball on the defensive line, we don’t move until it moves. On offense, we have the advantage of the snap count and we need to utilize that. We haven’t been. Sometimes we’ve had false starts. Sometimes it’s the center, sometimes it’s the guard or whoever. When it’s the center, it’s very magnified because nobody else is ready. Unfortunately, we’ve had two or three too many. I don’t know why.”

When the Redskins signed de la Puente, a veteran with 50 career starts at center, it seemed as if it would only be a matter a time until he would start. However, Gruden reiterated last week that the Redskins signed de la Puente simply to add depth to the roster in case LeRibeus gets injured.

Though LeRibeus has struggled, the Redskins have remained patient as he learns the intricacies of the position.

This season has been an adjustment for nearly the entire offensive line, which has been forged by players with little experience, except for Williams.

Second-year left guard Spencer Long was called on when Shawn Lauvao sustained a season-ending left ankle injury in Week 3. Rookie Brandon Scherff has excelled at right guard after playing as an All-American left tackle at Iowa. Moses, also in his second year, has been praised for his rapid progression.

“Nobody thinks anybody with that much of a lack of experience could be a difference and perform at a high level like they’re performing,” Williams said. “Nobody can foresee that. Those guys have done an incredible job. Spencer — even Josh LeRibeus. I know he’s not as young as those guys, but he hasn’t that experience playing center, you know?

“He’s been a guard mostly his whole life, and even Brandon making the transition from tackle to guard, you know, on the opposite side of the ball — that’s way, way harder than a lot people give you credit for. It’s not a secret those guys work extremely hard. There’s not a minute of the day that they’re not working or meeting. The hard work does pay off, but it is kind of rare to see that type of improvement.”

Last week, Gruden made it clear LeRibeus was still the starter. The question now is whether the Redskins are willing to keep enduring the miscues if LeRibeus does not improve.

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