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Injuries to Samuels, Jansen Deplete Redskins' Offensive Line

With Chris Samuels, above, out and fellow tackle Jon Jansen doubtful to play this weekend, the Redskins will likely turn to little-used reserves.
With Chris Samuels, above, out and fellow tackle Jon Jansen doubtful to play this weekend, the Redskins will likely turn to little-used reserves. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

With their season hanging on a precipice, the Washington Redskins will approach their final three games without Chris Samuels, their best offensive lineman, who suffered a season-ending injury in Sunday night's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. In addition, Jon Jansen, the tackle opposite Samuels and the Redskins' longest-tenured player, is doubtful for this weekend's game against Cincinnati, leaving the offense with a stitched-together line at a time when a single loss will all but eliminate Washington from playoff contention.

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"We have to hold our team from getting so frustrated they pack it in," Jim Zorn, the team's rookie head coach, said yesterday. "I don't see this as a team that, in any situation, has that sense of packing it in. . . . Now, I think we've become more fragile with our confidence.

"We've got to get our confidence [back]. It's hard to get your confidence up unless things can be successful, so the thing that will turn us is if we can have some success in this next week. If we can get some success, I think we'll rebound."

To do that in their final three games -- at Cincinnati, home against Philadelphia and then at San Francisco -- the Redskins will have to figure out a way to increase their productivity without Samuels, the left tackle who will have surgery to repair a torn triceps in his right arm.

Samuels was injured while pass blocking on the first play of the fourth quarter of Sunday's 24-10 loss in Baltimore. The five-time Pro Bowler, who has struggled with a nagging knee injury all season, will be replaced by Stephon Heyer, a second-year player who won the starting right tackle job during training camp but was later beaten out by Jansen. Heyer played for the first time in five games Sunday night.

"It's tough when you haven't played in a while," Heyer said. "You got to get the game speed back and read stuff differently."

Jansen suffered a grade-two sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against the Ravens. The 10-year veteran will be monitored during the week and has not been ruled out against Cincinnati, but both the front office and coaching staff were preparing to play without both tackles against the Bengals.

If Jansen can't go, Zorn said 11-year veteran Jason Fabini, who has been active in only four games this season, would take his spot at right tackle. Rookies Chad Rinehart, a third-round pick who has yet to play in an NFL game, and Devin Clark, an undrafted free agent whom Zorn said the team will likely activate from the practice squad, would provide competition at the position.

"We've got to slide guys in," Zorn said. "They've just got to rise up and play well. That's it."

All this mixing and matching comes at a time when the Redskins -- losers of four of their last five games -- have fallen to 29th in the 32-team NFL in scoring, and it will put a tremendous strain on the group entrusted with protecting quarterback Jason Campbell and opening holes for running back Clinton Portis.

"The communication, it has to be more," said left guard Pete Kendall, who normally plays alongside Samuels. "There's obviously much less chemistry. I've seen however many looks I've seen with Chris next to me pretty much the whole way. You get to a point where it's just assumed that he's seeing it the way I'm seeing it and so on and so forth, and now it'll be different."

Despite their predicament, the Redskins spent yesterday trying to be resolute. There is, though, growing frustration in the locker room with the offense's inability to score. Washington's defense is still ranked sixth in the NFL in both yards and points allowed. It is the offense, with just five touchdowns in its last five games, that has not produced. That situation is wearing on the defense.


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