Washington Redskins: Biggest Matchups Facing Morgan Moses in Rookie Season
No pressure, rookie.
Moses, Washington's massive third-round pick from Virginia, will be in a fierce training camp competition with last season's starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus.
The role of protecting quarterback Robert Griffin III and creating lanes for running back Alfred Morris is a pivotal one. Assuming Moses wins the job, let's take a look at what will be his five biggest on-field challenges in 2014.
Preseason at Baltimore
If Moses is ready for the regular season, it should show in August—particularly by the third preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Starters typically play well into the third quarter in the "dress rehearsal" game. Moses will likely line up against three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil for a few series. Six-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs may get a few shots at the rookie, too. Dumervil and Suggs combined for 19.5 sacks last season.
How Moses responds in Charm City could determine whether or not head coach Jay Gruden deems him fit to start Week 1 against a pass-rushing tandem that's not for the faint of heart.
Week 1 at Houston
There are two names that no rookie offensive lineman wants to hear on kickoff weekend: J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
Watt, a two-time, first team All-Pro at left defensive end, has accumulated 31 sacks in the past two seasons. Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick the 2014 NFL draft, is expected to occupy one of the outside linebacker positions, according to Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith (via Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com).
New Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will look to exploit any perceived weak links along Washington's offensive line. With Trent Williams among the NFL's elite at left tackle, the obvious target is the rookie right tackle starting his first NFL game.
This will be an enormous moment for Moses. If he continuously allows Griffin to get hit, suddenly the Polumbus haters will jump back on his bandwagon. But if Moses holds his own against the most ferocious pass rush he'll probably face all season, the confidence that he would gain could set the tone for the rest of 2014.
Week 3 at Philadelphia
The most anticipated Redskins game of the season comes in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only is it Washington's first NFC East contest of 2014, but it's also the return of wide receiver DeSean Jackson to the City of Brotherly Love.
While all of the storylines will be centered on Jackson, the key to the game will be keeping Griffin upright. In two games against the Eagles last season, RG3 was relentlessly hurried and sacked seven times. He also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
Moses will probably go head-to-head against outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who was arguably the Eagles’ most impactful player on defense last season. He may also see some snaps against outside linebacker Marcus Smith, the Eagles' first-round pick from Louisville.
The veteran Trent Cole, although he played right outside linebacker last season, also looms as potential competition for Moses.
Week 5 vs. Seattle
The lights will be bright in Week 5 when the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are guests at FedEx Field on Monday Night Football.
This game has added significance to the Redskins veterans who were on the field for the 2013 NFC Wild Card Game and watched a 14-0 lead quickly turn into a crushing loss with consequences that lingered into the following season.
Griffin, Morris, Williams, Pierre Garcon and DeAngelo Hall are still catching their breath from that punch-to-the-gut playoff game. They'll be ready to play in prime time, but what about the rookies, specifically Moses?
Moses could draw a number of different matchups including defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, as well as pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin. It will be imperative for the Redskins to control the clock with Morris, protect Griffin and avoid turning the ball over against an opportunistic defense.
A Redskins win against the champs coupled with a clean game by Moses could act as yet another confidence boost for the youngster with 11 regular-season games left on the schedule.
Week 14 vs. St. Louis
The St. Louis Rams visit Washington in Week 14, which means the Redskins offensive line is in for a long, grueling Sunday afternoon.
While Williams will have his hands full with the NFL's best pass-rusher Robert Quinn, Moses will draw defensive end and fellow UVA alum Chris Long, who presents plenty of challenges for rookies and veterans alike.
Quinn, a first team All-Pro last season, sacked the quarterback 19 times in 2013. Long has collected 20 sacks in the past two seasons.
To make matters more taxing on the 'Skins O-line, the Rams drafted Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the first round of this year's draft. Donald will generate his own pass rush, perhaps allowing even more opportunities for Quinn and Long to make plays.
At this point of an NFL season, rookies who are used to playing just 12 games in college could be prone to burning out. It's up to Moses to ensure that the proverbial rookie wall is no obstacle.
All player stats and information courtesy of Pro Football Reference.