By Ronald Guy
There were many positions victimized by the $18 million cap penalty levied on the ‘Skins by the NFL this offseason, but perhaps none more so than right tackle. It is no secret that the availability of Robert Griffin III is paramount to Washington’s success in 2013 (and for the foreseeable future), and while RGIII’s athleticism complicates his wellness equation, the health of any quarterback starts with consistent offensive line play. The cap hit severely constrained Washington’s ability to upgrade the front five via free agency, and Mike Shanahan never got around to drafting an offensive lineman, which means 2013’s O-line will look a whole lot like last year’s. The play of Washington’s franchise protectors improved significantly in 2012 (thanks in part to the elusive defensive target behind center), but right tackle remained the line’s weakest link and perhaps the most glaring hole on the offensive side of the ball.
With its salary cap loose change, Washington signed journeymen tackles Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos — veterans more suited to providing dependable depth than being an every week starter. That leaves incumbent starter Tyler Polumbus as the team’s best option at right tackle. Yes, Polumbus is the same guy who I just labeled the weakest of last season’s five starters, but it is what it is. At age 28 and having several years in Shanahan’s system — going back to the coach’s and player’s days in Denver — it is unlikely that Polumbus’ performance will improve dramatically, but it here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to. Polumbus doesn’t need to end the season with a trip to Hawaii; he just needs to improve enough to land in the middle of the pack among NFL right tackles. Polumbus isn’t protecting a statue like Tom Brady; he’s tasked with providing RGIII just enough time to wreak havoc on a defense. Polumbus absolutely has the talent and, perhaps more importantly, the gumption to do just that. For what it’s worth, I like Polumbus’ odds and expect that he will fill the right tackle position adequately. The team provided Polumbus a much, much more significant vote of confidence in the offseason when it re-signed him to a two-year deal. If he fails, Trueblood or Pashos are on deck (yikes), and right tackle becomes priority No. 1 entering 2014.