Saturday, August 8, 2009

Let's Look At.........

The Offensive Line

(The fate of the 2009 season may rest on the shoulders of Samuels, Dockery and Rabach)

Going into camp, this was my biggest unit of concern. I mean, it really doesn't matter how much Jason Campbell has improved or how much poise and professionalism he has if he doesn't have time to throw the ball and is on his back all day. Doesn't matter if any of the 2008 2nd rounders are ready to play if they can't get the ball. Even Clinton Portis can't do what he does best if no one can open at least a crease for him to get through.

The early word out of camp is that the O-line is struggling. Now there can be a bunch of reasons for this:
1. The O is always behind the D when camp starts. It's normal and the O seems to need time to develop and gel vs. the D which can come out strong right out of the gates.

2. The Redskins D-line is vastly improved with Haynesworth and Orakpo. Don't forget that Daniels and Wynn are healthy, rested and in better shape.

3. Lots of rust on Samuels and Thomas. Plus, Dockery is on a new team. This all is true. Dockery was a Skin, but that was over two years ago. Samuels is coming off knee and arm surgeries and Thomas is coming off neck surgery ( a freaking broken neck!!!!). So I'm not surprised that there will be some rust on some of these guys.

4. They're not that good? Maybe. But I think it's too soon to tell either way. Let's at least see what this team does against the Patriots in week three of the preseason.

2008 Summary: The season started out well and eventually fell apart due to age and injury. Early on, Clinton Portis was having holes and he was having which looked like would be a career year. Jason Campbell also was having time enough to get some plays off and have a good but conservative season. There was the occasional sack, but nothing too severe that worried most fans. Injuries started as early as the game vs. the Cardinals as Stephon Heyer went down and was replaced by Jon Jansen. Randy Thomas suffered an injury that could have left him permanently crippled had he been hit wrong. Chris Samuels tore his triceps against the Ravens and Pete Kendall had bad knees that required him to sit out practice. While the Skins started out well, it wasn't long until things fell apart and it started with the O-line. Jason Campbell was sacked 38 times in 2008, including a dreadful 7 times vs. Pittsburgh. If you watched the Pittsburgh game (I was at that mess) it was so ugly that Campbell would get hit as soon as he snapped the ball and it came from everywhere.

As the season went along, it was clear that Jon Jansen is no longer a pass blocker. Sure, he can still run block pretty well but he was getting beat regularly on pass plays. The team still kept Heyer out despite recovering from his injury which makes you wonder if they felt Heyer could get the job done. There was little depth on the team and we saw little of 3rd round rookie Chad Rinehart. Then came the report from The Post which gave a scathing review of the O-line from the team (or at least a source who was in the personnel meetings). In this, there were concerns that Rinehart may not be serviceable. That Jansen wasn't really starter caliber anymore and Heyer may not be the solution to replace him. That Kendall and Thomas had health issues and that the team probably needed significant upgrades at both guard and the right tackle positions. Plus, both Samuels and Rabach are getting older and the Skins may need to start to get younger.

See why I was adamant on drafting Michael Oher? Of course, I didn't think Brian Orakpo would be there at #13.

The Offseason: The Skins did attempt to at least start to improve the O-line. Jason Fabini and Pete Kendall weren't resigned. Jon Jansen was cut (and then signed by the Lions). The Skins tried to go younger by bringing in G/T Jeremy Bridges and C/G Will Montgomery. Then the Skins got a coup by bringing back LG Derrick Dockery (cut by Buffalo). Also, the Skins brought in Dockery's friend and former 1st round bust Mike Williams who lost 108 lbs. to get into playing shape. However, the Skins failed to draft any offensive linemen during the draft. The main reason was that after the 1st round picks went, the team didn't have very high grades on the remaining players.

Current Roster: D'Anthony Batiste, Jeremy Bridges, Scott Burley*, Devin Clark, Derrick Dockery, Stephon Heyer, Will Montgomery, Casey Rabach, Ruben Riley, Chad Rinehart, Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas, Edwin Williams*, Mike Williams
* Rookie

Biggest Position Battle:
Stephon Heyer vs. The Field
(For Right Tackle)

Heyer has been named the starter going into camp, but the coaches have pretty much stated that it's an open competition. Most consider Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges at the top competitors for the position. So far however based on the camp reports I've read and listened to from the Post (Jason Reid) and from the Skincast guys (Reffkin, Murphy and Pappas) it looks like Heyer is the clear favorite with Williams and Bridges battling for the back up spot. I also wonder if Devin Clark will be given a shot, or if the Skins plan on using him as a possible back up to Samuels. Clark has been filling in at LT when Samuels is out.

Bonus Position Battle:
Who's the Backup Guard?

This will be a huge battle primarily between Chad Rinehart, Jeremy Bridges and Will Montgomery. Most likely, I see all three players making the 53 man roster but who is the primary backup guard will be very telling. Both Bridges and Montgomery have had starts at guard in their NFL careers, but I see Montgomery to be the primary backup for Casey Rabach (barring an amazing camp by rookie Edwin Williams). Rinehart has yet to play in a regular season game and Bridges so far looks to be depth as either a tackle or a guard. Randy Thomas' health has not been good. He's having both knee and elbow problems and just recovered from a broken neck and the surgery to fix said broken neck. So, I would guess that whomever becomes the primary backup will see some time and it may be sooner than later.

Players to Watch:
1. Chad Rinehart- overshadowed by Devin Thomas, Malcom Kelly and Fred Davis, Rinehart never took the field in 2008 despite multiple injures that took out a few of the starters. There was serious concern mentioned in the above article by the Post and through other sources that Rinehart just isn't "getting it". However, Coach Bugel has said that he's starting to figure out what he needs to do. Rinehart right now should be the heir apparent to Randy Thomas' spot at right guard and the Redskins look like they'll need Rinehart to step up sooner than later. There should be some pressure for Rinehart to step into the role. The last guard selected by the Skins in the 3rd round started in his first year and is currently a starter.........and that guard is none other than Derrick Dockery.

2. Edwin Williams- The undrafted rookie from Maryland is a long shot to make the team but has some measurables (namely size 315lbs) that could help him in his quest to make the roster. I think he'll probably make the practice squad but you never know, Stephon Heyer also made the roster in a similar position as Williams, so anything can happen. Williams was considered to be a possible 5th-7th round talent but went undrafted. Maybe the Redskins have found another gem?

3. Casey Rabach, Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas and Stephon Heyer- this is all about injuries. Samuels and Thomas are coming off bad injuries from last year. Currently Heyer (knee), Rabach (calf) and Thomas (knee, elbow) have missed time in training camp with injuries and the team is being very careful with Samuels. This is four of the five starters and you have to be concerned about this issue.

Projected Starters: Chris Samuels (LT), Derrick Dockery (LG), Casey Rabach (C), Randy Thomas (RG), Stephon Heyer (RT). Jason Campbell will probably get the blame if the Redskins fail this year, but any knowledgeable Redskins fan will tell you that most championships are started in the trenches. Many of us lived during the days of "The Hogs", so we know what a good offensive line can do for a team. The current "Dirtbags" don't have to be on that level, but they need to do enough to give Campbell time and give Portis an opening.......something that was done at the beginning of 2008 and didn't happen by season's end.

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