Fresh with new faces, Commanders O-line gelling early on


One of the many Washington Commanders’ units that saw a personnel shakeup this offseason was the offensive line. With all-pro right guard Brandon Scherff signing with Jacksonville and fellow guard Andrew Norwell (coincidentally coming from the Jaguars) brought in, the Commanders are ripe with new faces on the front.

That’s not to mention the colossal new name they’ll be protecting in Carson Wentz. A changing of the guard (no pun intended) hasn’t impacted the chemistry felt by the O-line unit thus far, though.

“We just brought in two great guys, right there,” second-year guard Sam Cosmi said after Wednesday’s OTA session. “Andrew is a great guy. I love his personality. I love how he works. Carson, I mean, very talented guy. A very personable guy. Just being around them a couple weeks I can tell they're going to be a great fit for this team.”

Besides acquiring two veterans in Norwell and Wentz, Washington also added depth to their offensive line via the draft, snagging guard Chris Paul out of Tulsa in the seventh round. He, too, is starting to find his footing in a group of guys who are starting to gel quite well.

“It’s nice not being the rookie…but that's been great, having [Paul] around,” Cosmi said. “He's learning the ropes. He's done a great job these past couple weeks, better than I did, adjusting to it. He's a very smart guy. He takes the information and really tries to put it on the field, which I think is a really great thing.”

As a whole, Washington’s offensive line overperformed in 2021. They overcame a slew of injuries last season, in addition to coronavirus, which could have derailed their chances of fielding a capable group.

But, as they proved during the latter half of the season, each guy doing their job and coming ready to play each week, as cliché as that might sound, did wonders to help the line rebound from adversity. They did so well, in fact, that Pro Football Focus ranked them as the sixth-best offensive line in the NFL—ahead of even the Super Bowl champion Rams.

“The group of guys we have, each one of us treat every week like game week, we attack it like each one of us is going to play,” Cosmi said. “You just never know. Especially with COVID last year, that was a big thing. It hit us late in the season, and we had guys dropping left and right, and it was just next man up mentality, and that's how it was.”

Cosmi lauded the efforts of offensive line coach John Matsko, who is going on three decades of NFL service. Matko’s preparation of his unit was critical in their seemingly never-ending battle with the injury bug.

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Charles Leno Jr. was also key in that respect. Leno quickly wowed at left tackle coming in from Chicago, prompting the Commanders to ink him to a three-year extension—he’s poised to be Washington’s first long-term LT since Trent Williams. He also took note of how the new arrivals on the line, plus Wentz, have gelled early on this offseason.

“It’s going good. You guys were at practice, right? You see ‘em,” Leno said with a chuckle after Wednesday’s OTA session. “Just a lot of hard work and guys believing in each other. I mean, I think that’s the biggest thing when it comes to the offensive line room.”

Now, with the Commanders gearing up to close out OTAs and from there move to training camp and the preseason, time will only help solidify the already sturdy bond felt by the offensive line. Taking lessons from last season, and with new faces to vibe with, the front lines of Washington’s offense look poised to pick up where they left off.

“You got a hand of five offensive lineman,” Leno said, flexing his hand to the media. “One finger breaks, it’s all messed up. But if you keep a closed fist, nothing breaks. You out there knocking people out…that’s what we were doing. We were out there protecting each other, taking care of each other, and going out there and competing. That’s what happened on the field, that’s what shows.”

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