There are certain areas where investments are safer, and well-spent. For the Redskins, the offensive line constitutes such a place.
The offensive line serves as the foundation of any offense. No matter how advanced offensive schemes become, and no matter how many innovations come to pass in the modern age of football, one thing will always remain true: A good offensive line is one of the keys to a successful offense.
The Washington Redskins have seen this adage in action, as well as its converse. At its best, in recent years, the Redskins line has been one of the best in the NFL, capable of both maintaining a pocket in pass protection while mauling defenders downfield in run defense. At its worst, however, it’s served as a warning for what neglecting the unit, and its depth, can do to a team.
By both keeping Shawn Lauvao as a starter in 2018, and by brushing off the need for depth, the Redskins neglected their offensive line last offseason, and that can’t happen again in 2019. As we’ve witnessed with teams like the Colts and the Patriots, a good offensive line can be built in a number of ways; with first-round picks or without. But it is the essential groundwork for any offense, regardless.
So, what if the Redskins want to improve their offensive line in Round 1, and fill a pressing need at left guard? There are a few options to consider, one of which being North Carolina State offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury. What does he bring to the table?
First Take host Stephen A. Smith has had a few notable gaffes over the past couple of months, but a mistake he made on Tuesday morning had the Washington Redskins fan base laughing out loud.
During a segment where Stephen A. was discussing the Redskins quarterback situation, he listed off the names of those who had started games for Washington in 2018. While the Redskins did go through several signal callers, he accidentally added someone to the list who doesn’t even play quarterback.
Check out what happened here, courtesy of @JoeeWrightt on Twitter:
“You look at the Redskins last year,” said Stephen A. “They had five different quarterbacks — Alex Smith, Josh Johnson, Colt McCoy, they even got Mr. Butt Fumble himself Mark Sanchez and some guy named Tress Way actually started one game.”
Way is actually the Redskins punter, and he’s a very good one at that. He downed 41 punts inside the 20-yard line last year and was considered a Pro-Bowl snub.
Way completed one pass for seven yards in 2018, which came during the last game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles.
NBC Sports Washington decided to have Way on for an interview to see how his new life as a quarterback was going, and he found a way to have some fun with it.
“Here’s the deal, when you have a career QBR of 118.8, I don’t think you are ‘some guy,’ there needs to be some sort of respect in there,” joked Way. “Guys, it’s been a busy morning, Kyler Murray reached out to me about 45 minutes ago, he wants to pick my brain on what it’s like — you know the blitz packages and really that NFL experience of being a quarterback.”
In his five-year career, Way has completed each of his two passing attempts for a total of 38 yards.
“Put the rock in my hands, I’ll raise up the stands,” he said.
It’s good to see Way take all of this in stride. Maybe the Redskins should have let him have a few snaps under center last year with all of the trouble they had.
The pain was agonizing for Dustin Hopkins.
Every step he took on the football field tormented his hamstring as much as the agony of not playing at all.
While his high school injury was disheartening, Hopkins could still participate in a sport he loved by kicking permanently. Soon after he recovered, the current Washington Redskins kicker discovered that he had the potential to use kicking to make it to the next level.
This kind of adversity is not something that was new to Hopkins. It’s what has molded him into an NFL kicker.
“[My hamstring] finally healed up and so I went back to playing the other position,” Hopkins said. “But then I realized like, ‘Hey, if I’m going to play at a D-I level and then at the pro level, it’s probably going to be kicking rather than corner or something.’”
A Blessing In Disguise
At Clear Lake (Texas) High School in Houston, Hopkins sustained his hamstring injury while playing on the school’s soccer team. When he was attempting to come back for both football and soccer, he kept re-pulling the muscle.
After discovering that the only thing he could do to play without re-injuring his hamstring was turning his attention to special teams, Hopkins’ eyes were opened as he drilled field goals with ease. Hopkins decided to attend a kicker’s camp and realized his biggest obstacle now was to simply polish his newfound skill.
Zeroing in on special teams, the two-time Texas 5A all-state selection turned into a USA Today first-team All-American during his senior season. His talent caught the attention of various Division I schools, where he ultimately chose Florida State.
Switching his focus was not solely about giving himself an opportunity to play football at a higher level. The fact that Hopkins wanted his skill to be utilized in a positive way motivated the future All-ACC selection to put himself in a successful position.
“For me, it was always I never wanted to waste [my talent],” Hopkins said. “There are people who give everything and work with everything they have, but some people just don’t have the talent. I didn’t want to squander away a talent without working hard. I just felt it would be wasteful.
“In a way, it’s a driving force to not let myself be the guy that was super talented but never reached his full potential. So it’s like I’ve always kind of battled against that. Most every guy at [the NFL] level, they want to stay here and have a long career, have that mentality of, ‘Man, I don’t want to waste what opportunities and talent I have.’”
Jody Allen, the long-time special teams coordinator, recruited Hopkins upon seeing high school film of his kickoffs. Despite having a promising year of hitting 19 field goals as a freshman, he had to prove he could be the go-to guy when a field goal was needed.
When Jimbo Fisher was hired to replace Bobby Bowden in 2010, he brought in Eddie Gran to serve as the special teams coordinator in addition to the running backs. Gran’s attention was grabbed once he witnessed Hopkins kick, claiming that the ball “sounded different off his foot”.
Even though Gran eventually named him the starter, Hopkins felt that getting game and practice experience would not be enough to reach his goal of playing in the NFL. He attended strength and conditioning sessions with different positions on his own, challenging himself and his teammates in every drill. Whenever the Seminoles had their own time to workout, Hopkins was a regular on the field attempting to make every kick perfect.
Gran believes that it was not what people saw in games that shaped Hopkins into a better player, but it was what went on behind the scenes.
“He’d compete, he’d get in there and he’d beat them [in the weight room] and that’s what I loved about him,” Gran said in a phone interview. “In the offseason, when you really didn’t have to be out there, you’d see balls lined up and you’d see a guy kicking all the time. He was always trying to master his craft and you know you got a great one when that happens, when he knows that people probably aren’t watching.”
The biggest adversity that Hopkins had to overcome in college didn’t come from an injury, however. Florida State’s 2011 homecoming game against Virginia was a moment that allowed him to take a deeper look at his technique.
According to Gran, Hopkins would have a tendency to kick the ball too high early in his college career. When the Seminoles needed a 42-yard field goal attempt to claim a conference victory, he kicked the ball too high and missed.
From that point on, Hopkins was determined to change the outcomes of Florida State’s games in their favor. During his senior season, he set a new NCAA career scoring record for kickers with 466 points in addition to establishing new NCAA, ACC and Florida State records with 88 career field goals. His performance lifted the Seminoles to their first ACC championship since 2005 and a victory in the Orange Bowl.
“That was a tough deal for him, Florida State losing to Virginia at home,” Gran said. “We had a helluva team. He came back and it didn’t phase him. He was strong, he knew he had to have a short-term memory and just came back and ended up the season doing really, really well.”