Commanders take a close look at the best offensive linemen before the NFL Draft


INDIANAPOLIS – Washington’s quarterbacks spent much of their one-on-one time at the NFL scouting combine talking to the offensive lineman. The team has conducted at least 19 of its 45 official interviews with prospects at tackle, guard and center, including Northwestern tackle Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr.

While formal interviews aren’t a perfect indicator of interest — a team can like a prospect but not make it “official” — they provide insight into what the team’s priorities are with one of its most valuable combined assets.

Overall, Washington seems to prioritize size, versatility and experience. Of his 19 O-line interviews, 13 were seniors, and the team has plenty of prospects who worked at multiple positions in college and several who weigh in at the top of their respective position groups, including Ohio State’s DaVand Jones (6-foot-8, 374 pounds) and Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence (6-5, 330).

Washington is expected to select a linebacker in the early stages of the NFL draft this spring as its front office looks to rebuild a line that was one of the league’s worst in 2022. Only two starters seem to have stepped up in the division: lefty Charles. Leno Jr. and Sam Cosmi at point guard/handler, whose position will be determined by the team’s offseason acquisitions. In interviews, coach Ron Rivera has said he wants youth at center and isn’t worried about pairing Sam Howell with a rookie.

“In the three years I’ve been here, we haven’t had a season [our interior line] Most of the games played most of our starters,” Rivera added. “[Improvement is] about health care”.

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Washington’s prioritization of size makes sense. In Kansas City, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemi almost always had tall tight ends and guards — only one regular was shorter than 6-foot-5 — and most of them weighed between 304 and 321 pounds. The only real physical deviation was tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who is 6-foot-8 and weighs 340 pounds.

There was a kind of boss in the center. Either Austin Reiter (6-3, 300) or Creed Humphrey (6-4, 302) took nearly every snap Bieniemi served. Washington has several with similar size, including Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz (6-3, 301), Oregon’s Alex Forsyth (6-4, 303), Troy’s Jake Andrews (6-3, 305), Arkansas’ Ricky Stromberg (6- interviewed the centers. 3, 306) and Michigan’s Olu Oluwatimi (6-2, 309).

Although Washington did not interview Ohio State’s Luke Whipler (6-3, 303), he would fit the mold. The team also held formal interviews with the top big center prospects in the class: Wisconsin’s Joe Tippmann (6-6, 313) and TCU’s Steve Avila (6-3, 332), who could also move to guard.

If Washington selects a lineman in the first round, it could be a top tackle (Skoronski, Johnson, Georgia’s Broderick Jones) or a linebacker (Torrance, Avila). A team can target a top center prospect in the second or third (Schmitz, Tippman) or later at the next level.

Washington has one advantage in linebacker evaluation this year. Assistant offensive line coach Terrell Wharton spent a week at the Senior Bowl last month working with prospects. He coached several linebackers in Indianapolis (Andrews, Oluwatimi, Dawand Jones, North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch) and several others (Torrance, Schmitz, Avila, Alabama’s Tyler Steen, Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron, Tennessee’s Waylah and Darnyalls). .

Wharton said direct experience with players “helps a lot” when it comes to building the draft board and ultimately making picks.

“Sometimes you only see them on film and doing drills at the combine,” Wharton added at the Senior Bowl last month. “I see them [up close], how they play football, how they act, how they take something from the classroom and apply that technique to the field. It gives me a chance [to say], ‘I like the guy. He did it. He did it.’

In the combine interview room, several players said the Commanders began their meetings with offensive line coach John Matzko by asking for a physical demonstration. He wanted them to break the deadlock, walk up to the imaginary line of scrimmage, get into position, and tell them how to prejudge the opposing defense.

“It was very old school,” said Stromberg, the Arkansas center. “I liked it.”

Andrews, who played at Troy, didn’t think much of the assignment, as the Trojans used a pro-style offense last year and huddled often. Forsyth, of Oregon, felt like he was being challenged because the Ducks ran at a high pace and rarely got together.

“He would make a play on the board and I would have to go through my process,” Forsyth said.

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Forsyth remembers explaining that before making a pass, he reads the linebackers first, then the defensive line. If he can, he’ll look at the safety turnover, but if the offense uses the tempo, “it’s a little harder to do.” Forsyth said learning the ins and outs of schemes, combo blocks and pre-motion will lead him to switch defensive calls.

“[Matsko] He asked me a lot of questions and showed me different coaching points,” added Andrews. “There were a few little plays, we talked about positional leverage, putting hats here and there.”

“It was a lot of fun,” Morris, Oklahoma’s right tackle, said of the commanders’ process. “I enjoyed the experience.”

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