The Washington Football Team has had to get creative to fill one of the most important positions on the field. Its season-opening left tackle, Geron Christian, has missed the past three games because of a knee injury. His replacement, Cornelius Lucas, missed the final 24 snaps of its loss in Detroit on Sunday because of an ankle injury.
Its fourth-round rookie, Saahdiq Charles — who was drafted to compete for the left tackle job — underwent surgery Tuesday after playing all of two snaps this season. And the team’s only other healthy and available tackle on the active roster, David Sharpe, is better suited to playing on the right side.
Talk about dire.
As Washington scrapes the bottom of its roster to find help, it may have to turn to the top of the depth chart. Morgan Moses, the team’s starting right tackle who took over at left tackle last Sunday after Lucas went down, could be asked to fill the void there for the foreseeable future.
“I asked him after the game ... ‘When’s the last time you played left tackle?’” Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. “He said: ‘My rookie year.’ And I said, ‘All right.’ So, if that situation comes up again or if that’s something we need him to do, we’ll be ready.”
It’s either that or turn to David Steinmetz, a third-year practice squad player who has yet to play an NFL snap.
Coach Ron Rivera said this week that “anything is possible” to fill the left side of the line, but Moses spent Wednesday and Thursday practicing at left tackle while Lucas remained out with an ankle injury. On Thursday morning, Christian was placed on injured reserve because of his knee injury, which means he’ll be out of commission for at least three weeks — maybe longer.
“Really, the biggest change is going to be for [Moses],” Rivera said. “We’re going to do what we do and play the offense accordingly. The biggest thing for him, obviously, is getting used to the left-handed stance and getting used to the left-handed-type players he’s going to have to play against.”
When Lucas went down in the fourth quarter in Detroit, Moses shifted to left tackle while Sharpe, a trade acquisition in September, took over Moses’s usual position because he’s “probably a better right than he is left” tackle, Rivera said after the game.
Sharpe is the team’s only other tackle on the active roster. Steinmetz is one of four practice-squad players Washington protected this week, and it may have to elevate him for the game — for depth, if nothing else.
Signing outside talent this year is difficult because of the league’s stringent coronavirus protocols. Most players signed from outside have to undergo six days of testing before they can enter a team’s facility and begin practicing. That typically makes it almost impossible to fill an injury void immediately. Should Washington try to add help for its next game, at Dallas on Nov. 26, it would have to sign a player by Friday at the latest.
Backup NFL offensive linemen are generally asked to be well-versed in more than one position. But it isn’t an easy task.
“It’s a really hard thing to do, especially when you’ve been entrenched in one place,” said former NFL guard and current Fox NFL analyst Mark Schlereth. “When I left Washington [for Denver] and flipped from right guard to left guard, I started all 16 games, and I still wasn’t comfortable playing left guard at the end of the season, after starting four preseason games and 16 regular season games. It was a huge adjustment for me.”
Former Packers and Lions lineman T.J. Lang played multiple spots on the line during his 10-year career and likened switching sides to “drawing your name in cursive with the opposite hand.”
“So it’s really difficult,” he added. “But at the same time, you can’t make it any bigger than it is. If you’re thinking about your stance and your footwork, by the time the ball gets snapped, you’re going to get beat.”
Rivera seemed to have little concern about Moses potentially going to the left side.
“Morgan’s a pretty good athlete, so I’m not necessarily concerned about it for him,” he said. “But, we’ll see. He started out as a left tackle, they moved him to right where he got comfortable, but he has left tackle skill sets. We’ll see how he goes.”
Meanwhile, Washington’s front-office revamp continues with the addition of Damon Jones as general counsel. Jones spent 13 years as a senior vice president and general counsel for the Washington Nationals and most recently was a member of the D.C.-based firm Covington & Burling.
“We feel very fortunate to have Damon joining our organization,” president Jason Wright said in a statement. “He will bring important lessons learned while working on major projects in the DMV area and a mission oriented toward positively impacting the communities through every aspect of our business model.”
Jones has more than 20 years of experience in sports, media and entertainment law, and was instrumental in the development and business-related deals for Nationals Park, which opened in 2008.
He replaces Will Rawson, who was promoted to general counsel in January.