Red­skins at Jets To­day, 1 p.m., Fox Jerry Brewer: Bran­don Scherff, mod­est mauler, faces a de­mand­ing task.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - Jerry Brewer jerry.brewer@wash­post.com

Of course, Bran­don Scherff re­fuses to make too much of the matchup. He’s not the ex­citable type. If you filled his locker with spi­ders, he’d prob­a­bly re­main stone-faced, sur­vey the prob­lem and qui­etly fig­ure out a so­lu­tion.

Later, he would get his pay­back in the same calm man­ner. And you’d feel the ret­ri­bu­tion, for sure. And you’d never bother him again.

That’s just Scherff, a mod­est mauler. The rookie right guard will never be de­scribed as fun. And the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins don’t need him to be fun, just as a pa­tient doesn’t need a sur­geon to be fun. He used the phrase “each and ev­ery game” five times dur­ing an in­ter­view Thurs­day af­ter­noon. He’s a rinse-an­drepeat guy, a player who will be ap­pre­ci­ated for depend­abil­ity more than flashes of bril­liance.

So it’s typ­i­cal and re­as­sur­ing that Scherff will ap­proach Sun­day’s de­mand­ing task with an un­con­cerned air. The No. 5 pick in April’s NFL draft will face the player Wash­ing­ton by­passed to se­lect him, New York Jets de­fen­sive tackle Leonard Wil­liams. And if the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing matched up with the No. 6 pick — and more uni­ver­sally ap­pre­ci­ated rookie — weren’t chal­leng­ing enough, Scherff also gets to lead an of­fen­sive line that will be with­out three starters. And he’ll be lead­ing the unit against a deep and ta­lented Jets de­fen­sive front that wel­comes the re­turn of Pro Bowl end Shel­don Richard­son from a fourgame sus­pen­sion. Is Scherff wor­ried? Fired up? “Nah,” he said. Nor­mal blood pres­sure should be la­beled “SCHERFF” on med­i­cal charts.

“They chose you for a rea­son, and you’ve just got to go out there and show them why they made the right de­ci­sion,” Scherff said. “You’ve just got to go out and play foot­ball. I want to earn the trust of all the guys up front and play at the type of level they’re play­ing at each and ev­ery game.”

Over the first five games of his NFL ca­reer, Scherff has earned the trust of his team­mates. The Wash­ing­ton of­fen­sive line has been a pleas­ant sur­prise so far, re­duc­ing sacks dra­mat­i­cally and paving the way for a run game that has had a few dom­i­nant per­for­mances. But left guard Shawn Lau­vao, the team’s best in­te­rior run blocker, suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing an­kle in­jury three weeks ago. Now, left tackle Trent Wil­liams and cen­ter Kory Licht­en­steiger will miss the Jets game be­cause of in­juries. Scherff and right tackle Mor­gan Moses, who have a com­bined 11 NFL starts, sud­denly lead a makeshift O-line in se­nior­ity. And for all the ta­lented de­fen­sive lines Wash­ing­ton has al­ready played, the Jets might have the most star power.

“We have a level of con­cern against that line with the start­ing lineup,” Coach Jay Gru­den said.

The Red­skins played well last week in At­lanta de­spite be­ing over­matched, but the in­juries might be too great to over­come this time, es­pe­cially with the Jets com­ing off a bye week. But if they are com­pet­i­tive at MetLife Sta­dium, Scherff fig­ures to play a key role in keep­ing the of­fen­sive line func­tional. It’s the first time he will have such a bur­den.

The flip side is that an of­fen­sive guard can only do so much. Which brings us back to de­bat­ing the value of se­lect­ing Scherff so high.

Gen­eral Man­ager Scot McCloughan made a state­ment about his in­tent to trans­form Wash­ing­ton into a blue-col­lar team when he drafted Scherff. He didn’t take Wil­liams, who was con­sid­ered the best player in the draft by sev­eral draft an­a­lysts. He didn’t take a freak­ish ath­lete like pass rusher Vic Beasley, whom At­lanta se­lected No. 8 over­all. McCloughan wanted Scherff, and when he couldn’t find the right part­ner to trade down and col­lect more as­sets be­fore snag­ging the of­fen­sive line­man, he just took Scherff at No. 5, higher than most would have.

At the time, the thought was that Scherff would be a right tackle. In train­ing camp, Bill Cal­la­han, the team’s new of­fen­sive line guru, moved him to guard. It makes McCloughan’s se­lec­tion seem even more un­ortho­dox now, but the gen­eral man­ager was most in­ter­ested in draft­ing the right player for this sit­u­a­tion, not win­ning over high­brow an­a­lysts who think about the se­lec­tion in a vac­uum.

Since the draft, McCloughan hasn’t dodged the ques­tions about whether he made the proper de­ci­sion. He ac­knowl­edges that bet­ter ath­letes and sex­ier picks from this draft class might be­come stars ear­lier than Scherff. But for McCloughan, Scherff em­bod­ies the four traits he wants to in­fuse in this ros­ter: com­pet­i­tive, con­sis­tent, tough and smart.

Scherff is quiet in the locker room, but his pres­ence, work habits and rapid growth have been no­ticed.

“He’s grow­ing fast,” de­fen­sive line­man Ricky Jean Fran­cois said. “He’s de­vel­op­ing quick. He’s work­ing on his craft. He’s be­com­ing a lot bet­ter. He had to grow up real fast be­cause, with this sched­ule, week in and week out, he’s gone against some of the best de­fen­sive line­men. And we’ve seen him hold his own. He’s do­ing a hell of a job. If that’s the kind of rook­ies Scot’s go­ing to be bring­ing in, it just speaks to how good we’re go­ing to be.”

Scherff has been more than just a sym­bol. He’s al­ready a solid NFL starter with am­ple room to grow. The coaches rave about how he rarely re­peats mis­takes. He has the rou­tine and work habits of a vet­eran. And he’s one of the rea­sons that the Red­skins are a more phys­i­cal team.

To jus­tify be­ing the No. 5 pick, Scherff will need to be­come one of the NFL’s elite guards. He has to rise to the level of Bal­ti­more’s Mar­shal Yanda, Dal­las’s Zack Martin and Green Bay’s Josh Sit­ton and stay on that top shelf for the bet­ter part of a decade.

There’s a dif­fer­ence, how­ever, be­tween jus­ti­fy­ing the pick to the na­tional au­di­ence and sat­is­fy­ing McCloughan’s vi­sion. If Scherff is a nice player who joins Wil­liams as a main­stay and be­comes some­thing of a Pied Piper for Oline ex­cel­lence in Wash­ing­ton, McCloughan will look back with­out re­gret and con­sider Scherff the safe pick he en­vi­sioned.

As the NFL con­tin­ues to change and fea­ture big in­te­rior de­fen­sive line­men with ex­tra­or­di­nary ath­letic gifts, the value of qual­ity guard play in­creases. Guards are no longer just the tough guys you can find any­where to com­ple­ment the cen­ter and book­end tack­les. In­te­rior de­fen­sive pres­sure — a pass rush right in the quar­ter­back’s face — can de­stroy an of­fense. And with ev­ery de­fense em­pha­siz­ing speed, it’s in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to run the ball with­out guards who are both rugged and ag­ile.

“Dude, this game is evolv­ing,” Jean Fran­cois said. “This game ain’t the same. I un­der­stand why peo­ple ask about us­ing a high pick at guard. Re­mem­ber, Chance War­mack (No. 10 over­all in 2013 draft) was a high-pick guard. He wasn’t a tackle first like Scherff. He was a straight-up guard. Robert Gallery, who used to play tackle, be­came a guard, and it turned around his ca­reer. So, in this game, it doesn’t mat­ter if you get drafted as this po­si­tion, or that po­si­tion, or what the value of the pick is on some chart or spread­sheet. If you fit some­where, and you have suc­cess, and the team is suc­cess­ful be­cause of you, then you were a great pick.”

Or, as Scherff says more suc­cinctly: “I’m go­ing to play wher­ever they want me to play, and I’m just go­ing to go out there and do my job each and ev­ery game.”

That ap­proach won’t in­spire much buzz, un­less we’re talk­ing about the buzz func­tion on an alarm clock. But there’s some­thing ap­peal­ing about the rare un­der­stated No. 5 pick.

There’s al­most no chance Scherff will be a tran­scen­dent, face-of-the-fran­chise star. That’s not his as­pi­ra­tion. He just wants to be a re­ally good foot­ball player. Each and ev­ery game.

As a piece of McCloughan’s foundation, Scherff is far from flimsy. For more by Jerry Brewer, visit wash­ing­ton­post.com/brewer.

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