At any point during the first eight games of this season, if you ranked every player on the roster of the Washington Redskins from #1 to #53, in order of “the person this team can least afford to lose for ANY period of time,” I challenge you to come up with anyone other than Trent Williams as the #1 guy.
Just think about it: the drop off between Williams and his replacement (Ty Nsekhe) far surpasses that of any other player on the roster. Losing Jordan Reed, Josh Norman, Ryan Kerrigan, or almost any other player on this team (yes, even Kirk Cousins), is a far more palatable scenario than losing Williams for any stretch of time. He is, unquestionably, one of the five best offensive tackles in the NFL, and one of the 10 best offensive linemen in general. He is an animal in the running game, and while he can get a bit grabby in pass protection, there isn’t a single offensive tackle who you’d definitively take have over him (yes, not even Tyron Smith in Dallas or Joe Thomas in Cleveland).
Yes, I know that Nsekhe did a sufficient job manning the left tackle position for much of the Redskins Week Three win against the New York Giants. But the key differences there were that: 1) Williams was still on the field (playing like an absolute animal at left guard), and 2) because the change was made during the course of the game, it didn’t allow for the opposing defensive coordinator to draw up schemes all week, designed to attack the left side of the Redskins line and cause confusion from a guy making his third career start.
That’s why losing Williams to this four-game suspension hurts so much. No matter how much anyone wants to talk up Nsekhe, there’s going to be a massive drop-off there, and it’s going to impact a lot of what Washington can do on offense. Williams was good enough that he made up for a lot of Shaun Lauvao’s shortcomings (and there have been ample; he hasn’t been that great this season). The running game is likely going to be a bit more one-dimensional, focused more on running behind the right side of the offensive line. The Redskins will likely have to keep a tight end — probably Vernon Davis — on the line in obvious passing situations, stifling some of the offensive creativity and firepower we’ve seen from that position in recent weeks.
On top of all of that, the suspension comes at arguably the worst possible point in the season. Washington’s next four games always was — and still remains — their toughest stretch of the 2016 season. They play three games in 11 days, including a borderline-savage level of short rest in between games against two likely playoff teams: the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys (they play against both in a 92 hour span). Here’s who lines up on the right side of the defense of those four teams (meaning they’ll be opposite the left side of our offense): Everson Griffen, Mike Daniels and/or Clay Matthews Jr., and Demarcus Lawrence. Three of those five guys played in the Pro Bowl last year. Daniels is the best defensive lineman that most people have never heard of. Lawrence is an up-and-coming stud who had two sacks and a forced fumble when the Cowboys visited Washington in early December of 2015. I’d also expect to see a healthy dose of Chandler Jones, who’s on pace for double-digit sacks this season. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the Vikings, Packers, and Cardinals are three teams who love to bring the blitz, and won’t be afraid to attack the left side of the Redskins line.
If the playoff started today, the Redskins would be the sixth seed in the NFC. They really need to come out of this next four game stretch with at least two wins, if they want to keep any postseason hopes alive. That was already a tall task, considering three of their next four opponents have winning records; Arizona is the one team without a winning record, but they have the best running back in the NFL, and they’re a much tougher team to play in Arizona, where we face them, versus when they’re on the road.
Losing Williams makes such a task almost unspeakably difficult. Whatever the reason may have been for the suspension — Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog did a fantastic job providing perspective on NFL players using marijuana instead of narcotic painkillers for the wear and tear they suffer during the season — it’s still an absolute gut-punch to the Redskins 2016 season to date.
Week 10 NFL Picks
Cleveland at Baltimore (-7.5) — pick made yesterday evening
Minnesota at Washington (-2.5)
Green Bay (-2.5) at Tennessee
Chicago (-2) at Tampa Bay
Kansas City at Carolina (-3)
Atlanta (-2) at Philadelphia
Los Angeles at NY Jets (-1.5)
Denver at New Orleans (-3)
Houston at Jacksonville (-2)
Miami at San Diego (-4)
Dallas at Pittsburgh (-2.5)
San Francisco at Arizona (-13.5)
Seattle at New England (-7.5)
Cincinnati at NY Giants (Even)
Last Week: 4-8-1
Season To Date: 63-63-3