It's Hard to Get a Line on the Washington Redskins' Offense
With few real position battles to debate, the talk throughout the Washington Redskins' training camp has centered on this question: Is the offensive line that bad, or is the defense that good?
Saturday's 60-minute scrimmage did little to settle the matter -- or any other matter, for that matter. When at least nine players -- including defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, running back Clinton Portis and wide receiver Santana Moss -- sit out, it's going to be hard to come to a lot of conclusions about the direction of this team.
Offensive line coach Joe Bugel said that's not really the point of the scrimmage.
"Basically the scrimmage is really good for the young guys trying to make the football team, how they do under the pressure of the crowd out here," he said. "I am anxious to see the film right now and see what young guys came to the top, who got a little bit better today."
According to Coach Jim Zorn, the young guys most worthy of mention were two rookies, linebacker-defensive end Brian Orakpo and defensive end Jeremy Jarmon -- the last two players signed before camp. Great things have been expected of Orakpo; Jarmon (1 1/2 sacks) has been a pleasant surprise, just as he predicted he would be.
At least part of the crowd would have added fourth-string quarterback Chase Daniel to the list. On a day when most of the passing game consisted of short-yardage throws, the rookie out of Missouri threw the day's only real bomb, although he didn't get the touchdown because of pass interference on cornerback Justin Tryon. A fan yelled, "If we can't have [Michael] Vick we'll take Chase," and there was a brief chanting of his name before and after he ran for an eight-yard touchdown.
(And that was the hardest paragraph this Jayhawk has ever had to write.)
The truth is, too much emphasis is placed on training camp, and the scrimmage, and to some extent the preseason as well. Fans are eager for the season to start and expect secrets to be revealed and stars to emerge. But players are being held back for injuries, or because they are veterans and there is no point in wearing them out in August.
What fans can and should worry about is the precarious health of the offensive line and one result of that: the struggling offense.
On the eve of camp, Zorn said that every player was healthy; not one would be held out of practice (although several would skip afternoon sessions). A lot's changed since then -- and that was only 11 days ago. There hasn't been a serious "golf cart" injury -- I mean a player taken off the field on a cart, not a player run over by a cart, which is also serious but less common -- but there have been a lot of nagging aches and pains.
And no unit is more battered after less than two weeks of practice than the offensive line. Right tackle Stephon Heyer has a bruised knee; right guard Randy Thomas also has knee woes. Both sat out Saturday. Mike Williams's comeback has been derailed by an abdominal strain. Center Casey Rabach had an injured calf; guard Rueben Riley had a sprained ankle. Zorn also said that left tackle Chris Samuels had fluid drained off his knee earlier in the week.
So when backup right tackle Jeremy Bridges, who started on the first team Saturday, went down hard at the end of a play, it looked like that golf cart streak might be broken. He tried to get up twice, then fell back to the grass. Eventually he was helped up and spent the remainder of practice sitting on a water cooler, his right ankle tightly wrapped. (And now we have the beginning of a sliding scale: golf cart injury, water cooler injury.)