Offensive Line Needs to Remain Solid
Saturday, January 5, 2008
During their season-ending four-game winning streak, the Washington Redskins gave up an average of only two sacks per game. The offensive line's effective pass protection was among the keys to Washington's improbable run to the NFC's last playoff berth, and the unit hopes to continue its strong performance today against the Seattle Seahawks in a first-round playoff game at Qwest Field.
"I'm proud of everybody," Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said. "We had a lot of injuries, key guys go down, and we really haven't missed a beat."
After the first two games, the Redskins had to replace the starting right side of their offensive line because of season-ending injuries. Right tackle Jon Jansen broke his leg in the season-opening victory over Miami and right guard Randy Thomas tore his triceps in Week 2 against Philadelphia.
Reserve tackle Todd Wade took Jansen's spot in the starting lineup and 10-year veteran Jason Fabini, a tackle his first nine seasons in the league, started at guard for the first time in his career. Undrafted rookie Stephon Heyer moved ahead of Wade down the stretch and has played well, coaches and players said, while starting the last four games at right tackle.
"That is a great story," said quarterback Todd Collins, selected the NFC offensive player for the month of December. "Our whole right side of our line, Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen, guys that have been here for years, cornerstones, go down. Then we put Fabini in and a rookie [Heyer] and Todd Wade. How they have held that together -- the right side of the line -- has just been phenomenal. It takes a lot."
The offensive line expects to have one of its biggest challenges of the season against Seattle. The Seahawks finished fourth in the league with 45 sacks. Defensive end Patrick Kerney led the NFC with 14.5 sacks and forced five fumbles and linebacker Julian Peterson had 9.5 sacks.
"No doubt about it, they get pressure on the quarterback, and they've got some nice blitz schemes as well," Samuels said. "I'm just going to play 'em straight up. If the coaches send help my way, cool. But if not, I've got to hold up my end of the bargain."
Seahawks Take to the Air
With running back Shaun Alexander -- the 2005 league MVP -- slowed because of injuries, the Seahawks relied more on the passing game this season.
"We are a little bit different than we have been in the past, but we don't want to be," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback said in a conference call with reporters. "We want to be a really good running football team. That is something we want to do.
"There came a point this year, because of injury and because we had not had success running the ball, where [Coach] Mike [Holmgren] said: 'Let's just open it up. Let's get a little bit more aggressive in the passing game. Let's really put the onus on the offensive line.' Those guys responded well." . . .
Redskins wide receiver James Thrash (who has a high ankle sprain) is listed as questionable for today's game. Quarterback Jason Campbell, still recovering from a dislocated knee, is out.