December 1, 2010

Who Are These Guys?

As fans, coaches and players of the Tennessee Titans watched the Redskins’ patchwork offensive line hold its own against their sack-happy defense two weeks ago, they could be forgiven for invoking Butch Cassidy.

“Who are those guys?”

As Minnesota Vikings interim head coach Leslie Frazier and his reshuffled coaching staff studied film of that game last week, in preparation to play the Redskins on Sunday, they too could be forgiven.

“Who ARE those guys?”

Think about it. Here was the projected starting offensive line heading into the Vikings game:

Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Artis Hicks and Jammal Brown.

Redskins fans who have watched the offensive line evolve—some might say devolve—to its present state over the past decade may well have asked themselves the same question a few times, but more likely posed if the classic movie were remade today.

“Who the **** are those guys!?”

Introductions are in order.

A year ago at this time, the only name you would have found from that list on the Washington Redskins’ roster was Will Montgomery. For the benefit all who might stand behind him on line at the grocery store and think only, “whoa—big dude,” here is a quick primer:

Montgomery was a seventh-round (234th overall) draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2006. He stuck with the Panthers for one year, appearing in six games and starting four. Carolina released him before the 2007 season and he was picked up by the New York Jets. He played in seven games for the Jets over two seasons, recording two starts.

The Redskins then signed Montgomery as an unrestricted free agent in December of 2008. He appeared in all 16 games for them in 2009, starting three, and through this past weekend had played in eight games, with two starts, in 2010.

There are household names, and there is Will Montgomery.

Projected to start off Montgomery’s left hip against Minnesota on Sunday at left guard was Kory Lichtensteiger. For those who struggle with his name, the proper pronunciation is Koh-ree.

Drafted out of Bowling Green in 2008 by then-Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, Lichtensteiger played one year in Denver, appearing in 16 games (no starts) before being released. He was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings for the 2009 season, but saw no action and was let go again before October. The Redskins signed him prior to the 2010 season, and by week two, he had earned his way into the starting lineup. He has nine NFL starts under his belt.

Starting at left tackle on Sunday was rookie Trent Williams. One year ago only Mel Kiper, Oklahoma Sooner fans and a few draft geeks could have told you anything meaningful about Williams. He has since become a top-five pick in the NFL Draft, however, so his name at least registers a blip on the average fan’s “yeah, I’ve heard of him” meter.

Still and all, Williams is a classic, raw rookie all of ten games into his NFL career.

At right guard on Shanahan’s projected lineup card Sunday was relative Methuselah and prototypical NFL journeyman Artis Hicks. An eight-year veteran, Hicks was brought into the NFL by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Memphis in 2002. By 2004 he had become a starter, and over the course of four years started 31 games for the Eagles. After being traded to the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2006 season, Hicks went on to start 27 of 56 games over four years for the Vikings.

And yet, when he was inked by the Redskins as a free agent prior to the 2010 season, I would wager 95 out of 100 fans asked, “who?”

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