The Redskins were without three starters on their offensive line — Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Spencer Long — as well as backup Ty Nsekhe heading into Sunday’s 33-19 loss to Dallas.
Chase Roullier, a 24-year-old rookie sixth-round draft pick, started at center. Tyler Catalina and T.J. Clemmings were in the game. Arie Kouandjio and Orlando Franklin were both last-minute roster additions. This all after Jay Gruden had to cancel a day of practice last week, because he simply did not have enough bodies.
Kouandjio, a final roster cut this year, was at least familiar with the Redskins offense. Franklin was so new to the team, he met Kirk Cousins for the first time Sunday morning, in the locker room, before the game.
“I don’t know that Orlando Franklin got in [the game] yesterday, but I met him in the locker room,” Cousins told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier during his weekly segment Monday — ‘Under Center,’ driven by the Lindsay Automotive Group.
“Before the game is when I shook his hand and introduced myself, and said, ‘Look forward to working with you today, although, hopefully we don’t have to use you.'”
Another starter, Shawn Lauvao, went down during the game, meaning at one point, Morgan Moses — fighting through two ankle injuries of his own — was the only starter on the line healthy enough to play.
“We knew it was going to be a work in progress all through the game and you roll with it,” Cousins said. “And, you know, I think you could ask any guy who plays 10 or 15 years in the league, and they’ll tell you of a game or a season where they had injuries, and had to deal with it and had to play through it. That’s my mindset, is if I want to be a guy who is a Terminator, who just keeps saying ‘I’ll be back’ year in and year out, then I’ve got to be a guy, when there are injuries, that can still produce and that’s going to my challenge as we go forward.”
One might think, if a backup lineman is good enough to make the roster, the difference between he and the starter ahead of him can’t be that great.
“Obviously, Trent Williams is gonna be more gifted, more talented than the next guy. That goes without saying,” Cousins said. “And even a Brandon Scherff or a Spencer Long. I mean, there’s a reason that they play — they have physical talent. And there is, at times, a bit of a drop-off, but really, the bigger issue is the continuity, the mental side of the game, the chemistry with your fellow o-lineman, to understand how this scheme works.”
“Most of these guys have been here for two or three years,” he explained. “And even the ones that are newer this year went through OTAs and went through training camp, and have gone through several weeks now. They understand how we handle our sort protections, and our Roger calls, and our Louie calls and they’ll pick-up TE gains and blitzes. All that communication that takes place, sometimes non-verbally.”
“It’s hard to bring a guy in quickly and have him get caught up to speed, so that was a big challenge,” he said. “We felt it at times yesterday. It was no easy task. We knew going in we were going to be asking a lot of some guys, and I can’t say I’m surprised with how challenging it is to go in there and protect an NFL defensive pass rush.”
What did Dallas do, and was it what you expected? How did they attack you guys, defense to offense?
“Well, they did some shifting up front on the defensive line that I noticed,” Cousins said. “They were making move calls and trying to get those linemen to stem down, to being head-up on the center and potentially change our calls or the way we want to block things.”
“Other times, they held their techniques and then they slanted or stunted right at the snap, which also then can give you trouble with your blocking schemes, depending on the play,” he said. “They did a lot of the same things they had done on tape — drop eight guys in coverage and try to maximize coverage, and other times play tight man-coverage. They brought pressures, mixed it up.
“I didn’t feel like they got in any one rhythm and just did the same thing over and over. They had a variety of looks and coverages and blitzes, but it was all things that we had seen and they had done in the past. They also played very hard, and Sean Lee is a great leader for them, and really makes them go, and they obviously had the better day yesterday.”