Based on speed and quickness and power alone, Saahdiq Charles seems like an obvious choice to be the Washington Redskins’ starting left tackle for the next several years. “Tremendous talent, tremendous upside,” said Kyle Smith, the team’s vice president of player personnel, after the Redskins took Charles in the fourth round of last month’s NFL Draft.
Charles seemed to emphasize this thought Thursday on a video conference call by pointing out that he was LSU’s starting left tackle for most of the past three seasons, playing in the SEC West, which he believes to be “the best division of football you can go play for in college in the United States.”
But there is also the matter of a six-game suspension last fall for violating team rules during LSU’s national championship season. The suspension likely caused Charles to tumble to the draft’s third day, chasing away enough teams that Washington was able to get him at least two rounds later than he would have been available otherwise.
Charles has never revealed the reason for the discipline, which LSU called coach Ed Orgeron’s decision, other than to say he had made “mistakes.” On Thursday’s call, he said he won’t let those mistakes happen in the NFL.
“I felt like there’s nothing I could do to necessarily convince them, just because you can only move forward,” Charles said, when asked how he had assured the Redskins and coach Ron Rivera that he was worthy of an opportunity. “I was suspended for a coach’s decision. I made a mistake, and I did move past that, and the problems that I had in college aren’t a problem anymore.”
Charles said he met with Rivera and some of the team’s coaches at February’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis and spoke fondly about a video call a few days before the draft with Malcolm Blacken, Washington’s senior director of player development — a conversation that Rivera and Smith later said was a factor in their decision to pick him.
Charles said Blacken had texted him not long before the draft saying: “The guys have done a lot of research about you, and they love you, and they are sending me to you to basically do the last background check.”
“It was a pretty important talk,” Charles said. “I would feel like he definitely put in a good word for me and he likes me.”
Charles has been learning the playbook in video calls with offensive line coach John Matsko and center/guard Keith Ismael, a fifth-round pick. He said his fall in the draft has motivated him.
“There’s a lot of guys who went undrafted, so to say that I went to the fourth round, pick 108, the second pick of the fourth round is a blessing,” he said, “but yes sir I do have a chip on my shoulder because of it.”
It was more coincidence than design that Charles was picked just minutes after the Redskins completed the trade that sent their Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams to San Francisco. Charles wouldn’t discuss the possibility of taking over the important position, but the job is there for the taking, with the primary competition coming from free agent signee Cornelius Lucas and 2018 third-round pick Geron Christian.
In addition to Matsko and Ismael, Charles has been talking to teammates such as right tackle Morgan Moses and right guard Brandon Scherff as well as meeting with Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater. He said he has been studying plays and working out as much as he can from home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
When asked whether he has grown since his tumultuous senior season at LSU, Charles nodded, then talked about both the suspension and how his family was displaced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, moving from New Orleans to Georgia, then Alabama and eventually Mississippi. He described both as being important in his life.
“Each one of those moments wasn’t necessarily a lesson, but it put something into me that you couldn’t be born with,” Charles said. “It’s definitely helped me for sure.