The Redskins might have tried to find a more established right tackle when Brown went down if the NFL hadn't docked them $36 million in cap room over the next two seasons for loading player salaries into the uncapped 2010 season. But Polumbus, who will make a reported $700,000 this year, broke into the league in 2008 with Mike Shanahan's Broncos and knows the zone-blocking schemes that Shanahan brought with him to Washington when he became coach in 2010. He also has a talent for downfield blocking, more reason to keep an eye on him when Redskins' plays break down. You might recall Marshawn Lynch's wild 67-yard touchdown run in the Seahawks-Saints NFC wild-card game two years ago, when he broke seven tackles on the way to the end zone. Chances are you don't remember his lead blocker. It was Polumbus, who lined up at left guard on the play, cleared out his man to the right, then ran down the field with Lynch. By the end of the run Polumbus was five yards in front of Lynch and knocked the final would-be tackler off balance to clear Lynch's way across the goal line.
"I've seen him evolve over the years, and Tyler is definitely a starting-caliber tackle," says Loren Landow, a Denver-based trainer who first saw Polumbus as a 240-pound high school senior. This summer, as he trained alongside soon-to-be Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, Polumbus focused on improving the range of motion in his ankles, knees and hips. How well he protects Griffin has less to do with brute strength than with Polumbus's ability to pivot, twist, shuffle with and shadow rushers.
"Every player across our line has something he can work on, but Tyler's never led us to believe he's going to struggle," Foerster says. "After Jammal went down and [Tyler] stepped in, there wasn't a day we thought we had a huge hole at tackle."
For the sake of Griffin and the Redskins, that assessment had better be right.