Redskins going with Shawn Lauvao over Spencer Long at left guard

Coach Jay Gruden announced Wednesday that Shawn Lauvao will start at left guard after the seven-year veteran won a preseason-long competition with Spencer Long.

The decision brings Lauvao full circle after he suffered a lateral sprain of his left ankle in the third game of last season and missed the final 13 contests. He also missed all of the offseason practices, while recovering from two surgeries and three other procedures to repair both that season-ending injury and an issue with his right foot.

Lauvao began practicing again at the start of training camp, splitting time with Long, who started the final 13 games of the 2015 season in his place. Long started the first three preseason games, but Lauvao saw time with the first unit as well.

Long, who also received repetitions at center during the preseason, missed the final exhibition game with a sprained ankle. However, he has since returned to practice. However, Gruden said both performance and health factored in his decision to start Lauvao, who signed with Washington as a free agent in 2014 and started 15 games that season.

“Health-wise initially, but both performance and health. Shawn has done an excellent job,” Gruden explained. “We weren’t sure how Shawn was going to recover from his feet issues and he’s come back in a big way. He was our starter before Spencer became the starter when Shawn got hurt and Shawn has proven he’s back in tip-top shape and done an excellent job.”

The Redskins hope that Lauvao’s return helps improve the run game. Washington enjoyed their two finest rushing outings of the 2015 season with Lauvao in the lineup in Weeks 1 and 2. The Redskins produced 161 rushing yards in Week 1 and 182 in Week 2, but production dropped significantly following the loss of Lauvao in Week 3 and center Kory Lichtensteiger in Week 5.

Asked about his return to the starting lineup, Lauvao said Wednesday, “It’s just real humbling, man. Just from coaching, training staff, strength coaches, it’s just a great support system. [Offensive line coach] Bill [Callahan] does a great job of prepping us, but the other thing is, we have a really good room, and those guys push you to want to improve every day and be the best you can be.

“Last year was really frustrating,” he continued, “but you grow, man, you evolve, you learn, and try to go back to the drawing board and say, ‘What can I do to get better?’ ”

Gruden said that Long — a third-round pick out of Nebraska in 2014 — will serve as the backup both at center and guard, and that he “wouldn’t bat an eye” if he had to play Long for some reason.

“He’s a great asset for us on the offensive line because he can back up both guard positions and he can play center as effective as our starters right now, and not many teams can say that,” Gruden said.

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