Sports

Picking Splinters: Redskins Need a Lineman

It finally looks as though I won’t be able to rant endlessly about how the Washington Redskins have neglected their offensive line like a crumbling stone wall from 1600 – roughly the year most of the ‘Skins front five joined the NFL.

It finally looks as though I won’t be able to rant endlessly about how the Washington Redskins have neglected their offensive line like a crumbling stone wall from 1600 – roughly the year most of the ‘Skins front five joined the NFL.
New head coach Mike Shanahan seems set on selecting one of the two best tackles available in this year’s draft — either Russell Okung or Trent Williams — when the Redskins pick fourth overall at the NFL draft.
Should the ‘Skins choose a lineman, it will be the first time they’ve spent a No. 1 pick on the trenches since 2000. Considering the cliché that NFL games are won and lost in said trenches, that level of neglect seems egregious, particularly when you consider that Washington has dealt away its draft picks for other expensive, overpriced, under-productive assets.
Here’s a stat that will make your stomach turn: In the last five drafts, the Redskins have spent precisely two of their 33 picks on offensive linemen. Those two picks: 2008 third-round pick Chad Rinehart (four games in two seasons) and 2006 seventh rounder Kili Lefotu (no longer with the team).
Even though QB Jason Campbell spent the past two seasons running around the field like he was being chased by rabid hyenas, Washington didn’t address its aging, injury-plagued O line in the 2009 draft.
Entering 2010, that line is still bleak. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper marks Washington’s two biggest needs as offensive tackle and guard.          
Unsurprisingly, both he and fellow ESPN draft expert Todd McShay peg Washington with Russell Okung. And with that selection, a certain sports columnist could finally stop grinding his teeth and let go of a long-standing grudge against the Washington front office.
But … There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?
Here, there could be a couple. McShay goes on to point out a few other options for the Redskins with their No. 4 pick.
The first scenario is to trade down and add more picks. That makes sense to me.
Since the ‘Skins sent their second-round pick to Philadelphia for Donovan McNabb and burned their third-round pick on DE Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft (thereby forfeiting the pick in the same round of this year’s primary draft), Washington has but two picks in the first four rounds. It’s pretty hard to build depth when you don’t have any draft picks. Trading down could add one of those two missing picks back and the ’Skins could then double down on lesser lineman than Okung/Williams in rounds two and three. That’s fine.    
That’s even prudent if there’s something you don’t like about either of those highly touted tackles.
But … then there’s possibility No. 2.
While McShay sees it as unlikely that the ‘Skins would select Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen at No. 4 overall, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of them taking Tennessee DT Dan Williams to supplant disgruntled bust Albert Haynesworth.
If that’s the choice the Redskins make with the No. 4 overall pick, my head will explode. Nothing against Williams: I’m sure he’ll have a fruitful career in the NFL. But he’s not what Washington needs. And it’s certainly not worth spending a first-round pick to cover up for previous poor signings.
You don’t compound the error of inking Haynesworth to a contract that could have purchased some Pacific islands, you move on and hope he actually improves this season.
And if Washington won’t address the line now, then when will they do it? In the fourth round this year? Next year? Will that help at all? Will that make the trade for Donovan McNabb – a great, but brittle QB – worthwhile? How much further will that set the line back?
Whenever the Redskins pick in the first round, there are going to be spectacular alternatives available at other positions.
But those aren’t the players Washington needs.
A half-decade of utter neglect has stripped the Redskins of the luxury of selecting the best player available.
Now they are reduced to a singular need which, should they not address it, prohibits them from contending in the NFL.
It’s not a sexy pick — 300-pound offensive tackles seldom are — but it’s what Washington needs to do to improve.