Facing off against two formidable defensive lines to start the season, the Redskins offensive line is ready for arguably its biggest challenge of the season -- the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
For the Bears up front, it all starts with four-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro Khalil Mack, who has one sack and a forced fumble through two games. Mack is what NFL coaches classify as a game wrecker -- a player who can change the impact and momentum of a game with one play.
“We don't know where [Khalil Mack] is going to be," head coach Jay Grudn said earlier this week. "And then [LB Leonard] Floyd's a good rusher. [DE Akiem] Hicks is a powerful rusher. So [the Bears] have a bunch of good ways to get to the quarterback."
While Mack applies pressure off the edge, Hicks, a Pro Bowler last season, works between the tackles to collapse the pocket. Mack and Hicks accounted for a combined 20 sacks last season, which was 40% of the Bears' total. While Mack and Hicks are the leaders up front, the linebacker tandem of Smith and Floyd are also capable pass-rushers.
Right tackle Morgan Moses will primarily be matched up against Mack, but left tackle Donald Penn will likely have to block the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year as well.
“[Khalil Mack’s] a complete player," said Moses, a sixth-year veteran. "He’s gotten better over the years, and he’s a complete guy. He’s one of the few guys that can play the run just as well as the pass, so you gotta be ready to play a complete game."
Mack poses a unique challenge with his rare combination of power, speed and footwork. But it's not like this is the first time Moses will be facing off against an elite defensive talent. Just last week against Dallas, Moses matched up with two-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Lawrence, who finished without a sack.
Take a look at photos from Redskins practice on Thursday September 19, 2019 before they take on the Chicago Bears.
Center Chase Rouiller will draw the assignment of blocking Hicks, who is known for stopping the run but has developed into a more consistent pass-rusher using his speed and finesse. It poses a difficult assignment for Roullier -- a third-year player who started all 16 games a year ago -- but he expressed confidence in himself and his teammates along the offensive front. After all, the unit has allowed just two sacks in as many games.
“In terms of pass protection, we've gone against two of the best pass-rushing defenses in the league, and I feel like we've done a pretty good job with that,” Rouiller said.
In addition to slowing down the Bears' rush, the offensive line will also look to create rushing lanes for what has been a nonexistent running offense so far. The Redskins currently ranked 30th in the NFL with an average of 37.5 rushing yards per game.
"We've had some struggles in the run game," Roullier admitted. "It's something that we are very aware of and that we are working very hard on every day. It's something we've been watching film on to improve. Just spending some extra individual time to different techniques to continue to work on that."
Winning the battle of the trenches and establishing a ground game will be pivotal for the Redskins as they attempt to notch their first win of the 2019 campaign on Monday night.