Just six days after finding out that the team would be without starting offensive linemen Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff for the remainder of the season, and Trent Williams for an extended amount of games, the Redskins entered Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers with a very different lineup upfront.
Featuring three players who had only been members of the team for less than a week, and others who were dealing with injuries of their own, things could have fallen apart quickly. But, they didn’t. The offensive line battled through multiple types of adversity to help deliver a 16-3 win for Washington.
“I can’t say enough about that offensive line,” head coach Jay Gruden said following the victory. “They battled through it."
The “it” Gruden refers to is actually a multitude of factors. For starters, the Redskins were tasked with implementing brand new faces into the starting lineup.
A week ago, guard Jonathan Cooper was not on an NFL roster. As he prepared to travel back to Arizona after spending the weekend at homecoming in North Carolina, he most likely did not expect be playing in a game the following week, nonetheless starting that game. But, then his phone rang.
That Monday, Cooper arrived in Ashburn, Va., signed later that afternoon, and began cramming in the playbook. A few days later, he was blocking for quarterback Alex Smith
"It was obviously a big test for him and I think he did great,” Smith said about Cooper’s performance. “Unfazed in there and didn’t blink."
Cooper’s performance wasn’t mistake-free, with a few holding calls going against him, but the fifth-year offensive lineman did a solid job of filling in, considering the amount of time he had to adjust. He knew there would be hiccups on Sunday, but his teammates were there to help him through it.
“I honestly say the patience from the other guys, that’s the biggest thing. Whether it was a mistake that we made or me coming to them and saying ‘well what do we have here,’ or whatever,” Cooper said about what helped him during the game. “Everybody was super supportive and just had patience with me. Honestly I think that’s the biggest thing that helped me.”
Part of the reason for the initial success stemmed from the work Cooper and the other newly signed players put in throughout the week leading up to the game. Along with Austin Howard and Luke Bowanko, Cooper spent late nights at the facility, called teammates to ask questions, and worked on conditioning with offensive line coach Bill Callahan in order to ensure he was ready to go. On Sunday, it showed.
“These guys worked their butts off. They came in here on a [Monday] and got signed. Some of them stayed until 8 o’clock at night and some of them called us and asked us questions. We probably spent an extra 40 minutes on Saturday, night before the game, going over the script,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “So, those guys know it’s opportunities for them. Anytime you get to strap up in the NFL coming off the street it’s a blessing man, you don’t get those opportunities often. They cherished it and they came out and played really well.”
While the new additions worked to get a sense of familiarity as fast as possible, Moses and fellow lineman Ty Nsekhe fought through their own adversity on Sunday in the form of injuries. Neither looked 100 percent on the field, but the two played through them and provided leadership and experience among the newly formed squad.
The Redskins offensive line didn’t play perfectly on Sunday, and the group understands there is still plenty of work to be done as the season goes on and the cohesiveness grows. But for an offensive front that entered the game with new faces and injuries, it’s hard not to be pleased with the effort put forward in Week 10.
“I’m feeling great. I’m still alive, I’m still walking,” Moses said on Monday. “It’s Victory Monday, I can’t complain.