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Offensive Line Is Ready for Final Test

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 1, 2005

There were virtually no positives the Washington Redskins' offensive line could take from its scrimmage with the Baltimore Ravens nearly a month ago, except for the fact that no one got injured. That outing, inconsequential as it was, proved to be a wake-up call for the offensive line, and now the Redskins head back to Baltimore for their exhibition finale tonight with the line coming off its best preseason performance.

The Redskins excelled in both run blocking and pass protection in a 17-10 victory over Pittsburgh Friday night, out-muscling the NFL's top-ranked defense from 2004. When Washington faces the Ravens -- another strong defensive team -- this week, it is unlikely the starters will play extensively, and the Redskins will surely be more prepared than they were for the first meeting in Baltimore.

In hindsight, the coaches believe the problems in Baltimore served as a vital teaching tool for the line, which is adjusting to the return of tackle Jon Jansen from a season-ending injury and the addition of free agent center Casey Rabach. The Ravens blitzed and confused the line, and if not for the rule prohibiting hitting quarterbacks in that scrimmage, starter Patrick Ramsey might not have left the field on his own two feet.

"The best thing we did was go against Baltimore," said Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense and offensive line coach. "Their defense, needless to say, is very, very good and well-coached. They gave us a lot of looks, they've got five or six all-pros on the defense side of their football team. So it helped our young kids to get the butterflies out. We can't wait to do it again next year. They were perfect for what we needed. I think we grew up a little bit with that scrimmage."

The coaches expected the offensive line to face a challenge from the Ravens that they hope helps prepare them for the regular season. The Ravens are notoriously aggressive on defense and have a new coordinator, Rex Ryan, son of legendary defensive coach Buddy Ryan, and figured he would unveil some new wrinkles. There was no film of Rex Ryan's defense at the time (he has brought back many elements of his father's vaunted 4-6 scheme), since the Ravens had yet to play even a preseason game in the new defense. Much of what Baltimore did caught the Redskins' line off guard, although they have studied film of the last three preseason games to protect against being dominated by that defense again.

"The Ravens gave us some fronts that gave us trouble," Coach Joe Gibbs said.

Welcome Home for Some

The Redskins did not practice yesterday as players and coaches attended the annual welcome home luncheon. Running back Clinton Portis was voted 2004 offensive player of the year by teammates, tackle Cornelius Griffin was named defensive player of the year and wide receiver James Thrash took special teams honors. Coach Joe Gibbs was given one of two standing ovations during the ceremony -- the other went to former star Dexter Manley, who introduced Griffin -- and praised the team's dedication. Again, Gibbs refrained from making a 2005 prediction. "We don't know what's going to happen," Gibbs said. "That's one of the thrills." . . .

Starting tight end Robert Royal was not at the luncheon because owner Daniel Snyder gave him use of his plane to fly to Louisiana to help his family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He could miss tonight's game as well, and the plan is for Royal's relatives to fly back on Snyder's plane. Royal is a native of New Orleans.

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