ASHBURN — The Redskins skated through training camp and the first two weeks of the season with just one major injury. That run of good fortune has come to an abrupt end.
Washington coach Jay Gruden confirmed earlier reports that free safety DeAngelo Hall is out for the season after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.
Hall is out for the season. That alone is a disappointment for a 13-year NFL veteran who’s future is now in doubt. But the Redskins also have to deal with injuries on the offensive line and in the secondary.
Center Kory Lichtensteiger has a moderate calf strain. Left guard Shawn Lauvao has a moderate right ankle sprain. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland strained tendons in his right ankle. All three players will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, which puts their availability for Sunday’s home game against Cleveland in serious doubt. All three could be out longer than that, too.
The shuffling begins on the offensive line, where Spencer Long is the backup center and left guard. Washington doesn’t have another center on the roster so Long takes Lichtensteiger’s spot. Long was also the backup left guard after battling Lauvao for that position throughout training camp.
So that means second-year pro Arie Kouandjio could take over at left guard. He appeared in just three games last season and has been inactive the first three weeks of 2016.
There is another option. Left tackle Trent Williams slid inside to left guard against New York and Ty Nsekhe replaced him at left tackle. GM Scot McCloughan praised Nsekhe over the summer as a player who could start for half of the 32 NFL teams.
The decision: Is Washington better with Nsekhe at tackle protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins’ blind side and Williams adjusting inside? Or is it a total waste to move a four-time Pro Bowl left tackle away from his natural position when Kouandjio could simply slide in at left guard?
“That’s something that we got to look at. [Williams is] so good at tackle,” Gruden said. “But he actually played pretty darn good at guard. He’s a great athlete. He’d probably be a good center, too. We’ll just have to evaluate that situation and see how it goes. See how Arie does at left guard. Ty is an excellent player, there’s no question about it. But to move your Pro Bowl left tackle out of the mix to guard is something that is a little unique and hard to do.”
The Redskins will have to bring in a “center-type body,” Gruden admitted. That’s because there is no one on the roster who fits that bill. Cleveland, ironically this week’s opponent, signed Austin Reiter off Washington’s practice squad last week. Reiter, a seventh-round draft pick at center in 2015, had made the initial 53-man roster this summer when Long’s health (sprained ankle) was in question for the season opener against Pittsburgh.
Hall’s departure means backup free safety Will Blackmon is in line to start there. Blackmon is also a converted corner playing that position for the first time this year. But he’s been a playmaker even with limited playing time. He had an interception and a forced fumble during the preseason and forced a fumble during the Giants game on Sunday.
Another injury: Slot cornerback Dashaun Phillips, who spent all offseason and training camp holding off third-round draft pick Kendall Fuller for that position. Fuller played better at the end of the preseason, however. Phillips has struggled at times against a strong contingent of slot receivers for Pittsburgh, Dallas and the Giants and now has a hamstring injury. Gruden conceded that could leave the door open for Fuller to make his NFL debut this weekend against Cleveland.
“The thing with Phillips – we don’t know if he’s gonna be available this week or not,” Gruden said. “With Fuller sitting here, he is obviously our No. 1 option A. And we’re excited to see him play. But we probably need another [slot corner] for depth purposes.”
Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally on Twitter.