Redskins camp battle: What Shawn Lauvao's return means for Spencer Long and two positions on the offensive line

Breaking Burgundy's series on training camp battles begins with Paul Conner's look at the offensive line.

RICHMOND -- Get past Redskins headliners Kirk Cousins, DeSean Jackson and Josh Norman and focus shifts to training camp battles existing on both sides of the ball. Breaking Burgundy film analyst Paul Conner is spending the first week at training camp. His analysis of these battles based on live observations and long-standing insight of the Burgundy and Gold.

The position: Left guard

The contenders: Spencer Long vs. Arie Kouandjio vs. Shawn Lauvao

The position: Center

The contenders: Kory Lichtensteiger vs. Spencer Long

When we last left: The Redskins dealt with a musical chairs situation in 2015 largely due to injuries suffered by Lauvao and Lichtensteiger. Long took over at left guard and showed growth as the season went along. Yet Washington might want to kick him over a spot based on Lichtensteiger's age and relative ineffectiveness last season.

The battle:  The Redskins are currently rotating two combinations on the offensive line: Long at Left guard with Lichtensteiger at Center. Then Long bumps over to Center and Kouandjio comes in at Left guard. We might already know where the Center battle is going seeing how glowingly Jay Gruden talks about Lichtensteiger. Gruden remarked that the veteran is very smart and quarterback Kirk Cousins rarely has to trump his calls at the line of scrimmage. Gruden also mentioned Lichtensteiger is now weighing in at 294 lbs. as Lichtensteiger has always been a little light in the pants which, at times, has made it difficult for him to anchor against bigger 1-Tech Defensive tackles.

Still, the added girth a Kouandjio-Long combination would add to the offensive line has to be enticing. Those are the only two combos rotating in with the first team as of this moment with Trent WilliamsBrandon Scherff, and Morgan Moses locked in to their respective positions. The team will continue to evaluate this through the pre-season. Long, however, may have a whole other battle on his hands now that Lauvao has been activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list. 

Likely verdict: Last year, Gruden chose a cold Lichtensteiger to start at center in the most important game of the year over the guy who played most of the season helping secure that playoff spot. That loyalty mixed with the glowing comments that Gruden uses to refer to Lichtensteiger leaves little doubt that anyone else would start at center. Long gained valuable experience last year in the starting line-up but I don't think it's enough to unseat the former Mike Shanahan draft pick.
That same loyalty might spell trouble for Long at left guard as well. Lauvao never lost the job, he got injured. In fact, he looked to be much improved under offensive line coach Bill Callahan before he went down. In the two games Lauvao was able to start and finish, the Redskins rushed for 161 yards and 182 yards. If he shows he's back to pre-injury shape, I think Gruden will insert him back into the lineup, meaning the Redskins open the season with the same starting lineup that opened the first three games in 2015.

Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr

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