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Redskins Guard Rinehart to Get First Crack at Replacing Thomas

Chad Rinehart, a third-round pick a year ago, is expected to get his first start against the Detroit Lions after being inactive the past two games.
Chad Rinehart, a third-round pick a year ago, is expected to get his first start against the Detroit Lions after being inactive the past two games. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The success of the Redskins' offensive line -- and by extension the entire offense -- was predicated on the tenuous health of its veteran anchors. Now with Randy Thomas lost for the season, there's a vacancy sign at right guard, and team officials find themselves scrambling to find solutions for both the short and long term.

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Though Coach Jim Zorn wouldn't commit to his young reserves at a news conference Monday, Chad Rinehart, the second-year guard out of Northern Iowa who's yet to play an NFL down, is expected to make his first career start on Sunday at the Detroit Lions.

Rinehart was a third-round selection in the 2008 draft who was only active for three games last season.

Coaches and Vinny Cerrato, the executive vice president of football operations, were impressed by Rinehart's offseason progress and preseason effort -- "A different player than last year, that's for sure," said center Casey Rabach -- though the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Rinehart was inactive for both of the Redskins' games this year.

Because the team activates only two reserve linemen on game days, Will Montgomery participated in the team's first two games because he can play both center and guard.

"It's just kind of the way it goes," Rinehart said. "If someone goes down, I just kind expected to start dressing after that. I'm just kind of taking the mental reps and just being ready to go; practicing hard and just paying attention."

Coaches and players were impressed with Montgomery's play after he replaced Thomas, who is headed to surgery to repair torn right triceps, in the second quarter of Sunday's 9-7 victory over the Rams. In fact, at least initially the changing of the right guard was almost seamless.

"I didn't even notice he was in there for a few plays," said Rabach. "I really didn't. I came back to the huddle after the second or third play he was in there, and I said, 'When did you come here?' He was like, 'I've been here for three plays.' "

"Will is a guy who doesn't talk, doesn't say a whole lot. He asks for the call, he gets the call, and he just goes about his business."

Lined up on the other side of Montgomery, right tackle Stephon Heyer said he instinctually takes notice whenever Thomas isn't next to him. As players and coaches know all too well, Thomas is tough to replace.

"Communication was a little different. Will's not much of a talker," Heyer said. "And Randy's not whole much of a talker either, but he does come out and say things that are important when needed."

Even though the team returned seven linemen from last season's roster, depth on the line was an area of concern heading into training camp. Throughout the preseason, coaches were disappointed with how the second-string unit played. But they liked how some of the reserves, particularly Rinehart, performed when plugged in with the starting five. Zorn said the starters "kind of help him rise up."


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