- The Washington Times - Friday, July 22, 2016

The Washington Redskins’ offensive line dealt with major injuries last season, losing both left guard Shawn Lauvao and center Kory Lichtensteiger for the majority of the season.

Lauvao sustained a lateral sprain in his left ankle in Week 3 and missed the remainder of the year. Overall, he had a total of five surgeries to correct problems in both feet. Lichtensteiger played in just five regular-season games because of a pinched nerve that sapped power in his neck and left shoulder and was on short-term injured reserve. He returned in the Redskins’ wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Spencer Long filled in as the starting left guard and finished the season strong. Josh LeRibeus, who transitioned from guard, filled in at center and improved toward the end of the season, but often struggled with the snap count and the accuracy of his snaps.

The offensive line protected quarterback Kirk Cousins well and allowed 27 sacks, which tied for fourth-fewest. That said, there was room for improvement in the running game as the Redskins finished the season ranked 20th.

Offensive line

Roster locks: Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Brandon Scherff, Long, Lauvao, Lichtensteiger, Arie Kouandjio

Likely: Ty Nsekhe, Josh LeRibeus

On the bubble: Austin Reiter, Takoby Cofield, Nila Kasitati, Cody Booth, Al Bond, Kevin Bowen

What to expect: One of the best training camp battles will be for the starting left guard position, where coach Jay Gruden said he’s not “penciling in anybody” as the starter. The first question is whether Lauvao is healthy and how he plays after his myriad surgeries. He was held out of organized team activities and Gruden said in June that Lauvao will “be healthy shortly” but the better indicator of course will be how he looks once the pads come on in training camp. The Redskins were running the ball well before Lauvao was injured and the team liked the level he was playing at.

Long, entering his third season, played well in Lauvao’s absence and will challenge for the position. He also spent a majority of OTAs working as the backup center should the Redskins need help like they did last season. Second-year guard Arie Kouandjio is also poised to improve after playing three games in his rookie season and could be in the mix. He’s worked hard with offensive line coach Bill Callahan and it showed in OTAs.

I expect Lichtensteiger to start at center in Week 1 but am interesting to see if he’s regained the strength he lost last season because of his injury. Much like Lauvao, the better indicator will be once the pads come on and contact is allowed.

The Redskins are set at left tackle with Williams, one of the best at his position. Scherff and Moses anchored the right side of the line at guard and tackle, respectively, in their first year together and should only improve with continuous reps together. Moses said in OTAs that their communication has strengthened and it should show in training camp.

Nsekhe, the Redskins’ backup tackle, was utilized in jumbo sets last season, but that could change presuming the Redskins have a healthier group of tight ends. Washington also chose to retain LeRibeus on a one-year deal and his versatility is valuable. Reiter and Cofield appear most likely to challenge for a spot on the 53-man roster after spending last season on the practice squad. Gruden said he liked what he saw from Reiter in OTAs. Cofield, meanwhile, said he has worked hard to refine his technique — the biggest thing that hampered him last season.

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