Even with a small case of injuries, the Washington Redskins offensive line has been the pillar of their offense. The hogs off a power run game that features Adrian Peterson have been the biggest strength on that side of the ball. Sunday that armor was weakened with a series of injuries in the Redskins’ 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Coach Bill Callahan’s unit was already down its anchor, left tackle Trent Williams, after he underwent surgery on his dislocated thumb earlier this week. However, from the opening drive, their depth was put to the test, as left guard Shawn Lauvao suffered a knee injury. From there it was all downhill as other linemen were dinged up or forced to leave the game for good, leaving the Redskins facing the possibility of a dire situation that would have seen defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis filling in on the offensive line.
First let’s examine the list of injuries.
Lauvao got a holding penalty on the second offensive snap of the game. On the very next snap, Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett beat Lauvao with a bull rush before sacking quarterback Alex Smith. For insult to injury, Lauvao was actually injured on the play as he was driven back by Jarrett.
On Fox, Pam Oliver says Shawn Lauvao is unable to put any weight on his knee. pic.twitter.com/QVULfE0MXP
— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) November 4, 2018
After a preliminary evaluation by the training staff, Lauvao was taken back to the locker room area in a wheelchair to be further evaluated for a left knee injury. He did not return to the game.
Tony Bergstrom, who had played center in the three games Lauvao missed with a calf injury, was plugged in at left guard.
Three snaps in the Redskins were already down the left side of its Day 1 starting offensive line. Unfortunately, the day would only get worse.
Right tackle Morgan Moses injured his knee on the next offensive possession. Just like Lauvao, Moses’ injury occurred on a negative play, as he was flagged for holding on the same play he was injured.
Moses’ injury forced the Redskins to put in rookie Geron Christian who up to that point had not had an NFL snap as he was inactive for the first seven games of the season.
Two series into the game, the Redskins were down three starters along the offensive line. And while Christian played quite well in place of Moses, the situation was not ideal for the Redskins. They were now out of backup linemen and had they suffered another injury Ioannidis would have had to be summoned.
Fortunately, Moses would return just before halftime, however, the nightmare was not over. Not by a long shot.
The two-time Pro Bowl right guard would exit the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter — a play after he was called for a holding penalty.
As Scherff laid on the ground being attended to, Moses was furious by a couple of questionable referee calls on that particular drive, highlighted by a taunting penalty on wide receiver Josh Doctson a couple of plays earlier. Moses had a few choice words for the official, who flagged the University of Virginia product for unsportsmanlike conduct.
So, on top of losing their Pro Bowl right guard for an apparent serious injury the Redskins were being pushed back 15 yards for a penalty. By this time they trailed the Falcons 28-7.
With Moses back on the field from his first quarter injury, luckily the Redskins had Christian to bring back out on the field, saving Ioannidis from possibly doing double duty.
Christian moved in at left tackle, while Ty Nsehke who started at left tackle for Trent Williams slid over to left guard, as Bergstrom shifted to right guard. Got all of that?
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 4, 2018
The only member of the offensive line that played every snap of the game at the position he started at was center Chase Roullier.
Now the Penalties
The Redskins amassed 10 penalties for a whopping 147 yards. The offensive line was responsible for six of those penalties for 65 yards.
Moses was the lead culprit with three penalties, two holding and the one unsportsmanlike conduct. The line also had two that were declined in the second half, including a holding penalty on Christian that occurred on third down early in the fourth quarter that Smith ran inexplicably ran out of bounds for a loss of yards instead of throwing the football away.
It was an uncharacteristic outing for unit that otherwise had been stellar all season. The strength and speed of the Falcons young defensive front challenged the Redskins who were already missing its leader in Williams. According to NFLpenalties.com, the Redskins offensive line had 13 penalties enforced against them through the first seven games. They added six on Sunday.
The offensive line is the Redskins’ foundation. If they struggle, the team struggles. Running back Adrian Peterson was held to 17 yards on nine carries. The team had a total of 79 rushing yards. The best run of the game for Washington was a 22-yard pickup by Smith on a scramble in which he became a pinball bouncing off three potential tackles in the pocket as the protection from offensive line broke down before he turned a positive out of what should have been nothing.
A week’s preparation shattered with injuries and penalties, and yet another blowout loss for the first-place Redskins. The uncertainty of the health of both their starting guards potentially could jeopardize the final eight weeks of the season, as both Lauvao and Scherff will undergo MRIs on Monday.