The Washington Post

For Scherff, new start brings him back to the beginning

- BY NICKI JHABVALA

Brandon Scherff dropped his phone in a lake.

It happened sometime in midJune, so he had to reach out to Keith Ismael to get a few phone numbers back from his years in Washington.

“My phone wasn’t backed up for two years, so that was a big problem for me,” Scherff, 30, said Thursday by phone. “I went to text them during camp, and all of a sudden I didn’t have anymore contacts left. I said, ‘Oh, [shoot], I don’t have anybody’s number.’ ”

After seven years in Washington, where he earned five Pro Bowl honors and an all-pro selection, Scherff started anew in Jacksonvil­le when he signed a three-year deal worth close to $50 million.

The Iowa native now lives on Jacksonvil­le Beach and weathers the accompanyi­ng heat and humidity year-round, an

adjustment for him and his family. Despite the watery phone issues, he has maintained contact with many of the players he worked alongside.

To kick off the season, his acclimatio­n to Jacksonvil­le will be interrupte­d with a return to Washington, where the Commanders host the Jaguars at Fedex Field on Sunday.

“I’m excited to see all the guys that I’ve been with for seven years or the last two years,” Scherff said. “But all the friendship­s that I made, I’m excited to see the coaches that have helped me get to where I am and just excited to play again.”

The change has offered him some familiarit­y. Scherff chose Jacksonvil­le in part because of the coaching staff. Phil Rauscher, the Jaguars’ offensive line coach, was hired to the same title in Washington in 2018. He was promoted the following season and led the offensive line for 11 games while Scherff played right guard.

Scherff ’s time in the NFC East also made Doug Pederson a familiar sight from his days coaching the Philadelph­ia Eagles.

“I knew a couple of people that played with Doug, and they loved him, too, so I would say those two people had a big say in it,” Scherff said.

“It’s kind of the exact same as when Coach [Ron] Rivera took over [in Washington]. It all looks the same, but you just have to put different terminolog­y together.

So it’s been, obviously, a challenge for me during OTAS, learning all that stuff, but Phil Rauscher has done a heck of a job with the O-line. . . . We’re getting in the rhythm of things right now.”

Coming out of Iowa, Scherff was rated by multiple analysts as the top offensive lineman in the 2015 draft when Washington selected him fifth overall. He immediatel­y became a staple on the interior of the line.

But the last time he played a full season was 2016, his second year in the league. Over the years he has dealt with myriad injuries, including a torn pectoral muscle that cut short his 2018 season, elbow and shoulder injuries that prematurel­y ended his following season, and MCL sprains that cost him games in 2020 and 2021.

Washington franchise-tagged him in his final two seasons, giving way to his inevitable exit in free agency.

Scherff admitted that leaving Washington was “hard,” and though it appeared for months that he probably wouldn’t return, he said it “was all uncertain to me.”

For years, Washington’s quarterbac­k situation was uncertain, too.

During Scherff ’s tenure, the team had 11 quarterbac­ks start at least one game. In Jacksonvil­le, he could stick with one, should second-year player Trevor Lawrence meet expectatio­ns and remain healthy.

Scherff said the young quarterbac­k has already impressed him with the way he collaborat­es with the offensive line on play calls and both fielding and asking questions.

“He’s a great quarterbac­k for a second-year [player],” Scherff said. “To have the kind of knowledge and communicat­ion skills that he has in the locker room is amazing. And he’s been a big help to us in learning a new offense.”

Scherff has taken to Jacksonvil­le just as much as Lawrence. The lineman was voted a team captain, an honor he held in Washington but nonetheles­s was grateful to earn at his second NFL stop.

“He taught me how to be a pro,” Washington tackle Sam Cosmi said. “He’s a very hard-working guy, one of the most hardworkin­g I’ve seen. I learned a lot from him. I learned how to practice. I learned how to do recovery, how to come back from an injury. I learned a lot from him. He went to Jacksonvil­le and got named captain for a reason. He was a great teammate and a great player.”

His Washington return has Scherff reflecting on some of his top memories with Washington, including his “welcome to the NFL” moment as rookie in 2015 when he took on then-miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the opener. And of course later that year when Washington hosted the Packers in a playoff game at a packed Fedex Field and winning the NFC East in 2015 and again in 2020.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing memories and met a lot of amazing people in that organizati­on,” he said, “and I’m so grateful for every one of them.”

Although Scherff left as a Washington Football Team player and will return to face the Washington Commanders, the reunion at Fedex Field on Sunday will be a battle for both sides, he says. And maybe he will get to leave with an updated contacts list.

“We’re excited to go against probably one of the best D-lines that we’re going to be going up against,” Scherff said. “They’re a heck of an opponent for us, and I know how they practice. I told the guys that they practice [all] out. So it’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us.”

 ?? PHELAN M. EBENHACK/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Brandon Scherff ’s first game as a Jaguar is against the team with which he spent his first seven years.
PHELAN M. EBENHACK/ASSOCIATED PRESS Brandon Scherff ’s first game as a Jaguar is against the team with which he spent his first seven years.

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