Washington Redskins find a thin line between a solid blocking unit and one in disarray

The Washington Post's LaVar Arrington, Rick Maese and Dan Steinberg debate the outcome of some key matchups in the upcoming game against the Lions in Detroit with host Jonathan Forsythe.
By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 12:22 AM

As the Redskins continue to search for an identity on offense, perhaps no unit better represents the team's inconsistency than its offensive line. The problem isn't that they play differently from week to week. Heading into this week's game at Detroit, it's more of a quarter to quarter issue.

"The first quarter is one way, the fourth quarter is another way and the second and third quarters look even different," said offensive line coach Chris Foerster.

Foerster reiterates one of the team's prevailing themes - "everyone's learning, everyone's new" - but acknowledges that seven weeks into the season, there's a sense of urgency facing the line.

"You have to catch up pretty quickly," he said. "We're at that point in the year that things should start coming together."

Thus far, results have been mixed. The current starting group features four players who weren't a part of the organization a year ago. As a unit, they're faring better than last season's line, but coaches and player agree that there's plenty of room for improvement.

The Redskins' 16 sacks allowed is the ninth-most in the NFL, though still well behind last season's pace of nearly three sacks per game. Quarterback Donovan McNabb has suffered 36 quarterback hits, more than all but seven teams have given up. Washington already has faced 10 of the league's top 21 sack leaders, though, so those numbers could improve.

"We've moved a few people around. But I like what we've got," said Coach Mike Shanahan. "I think we've made some strides, especially with moving people around. I think we'll get better each and every game."

That search for improvement has coaches still carefully evaluating players each day at practice, tying performance to the depth chart as if the team was still in the throes of training camp. At right tackle, Shanahan intends to have Jammal Brown and Stephon Heyer alternate each series this weekend, similar to the way Kory Lichtensteiger and Derrick Dockery shared the left guard job early in the season.

"There's no question that you'd rather have the same five guys from Day 1," Foerster said. "But you also have to put the best five players on the field and unfortunately, here we are in the eighth week of the season and that's still in doubt."

While each lineman has shown flashes of promise, their struggles have also been difficult to miss. Rookie Trent Williams has given up three sacks, according to Stats Inc., though he's faced many of the league's top pass rushers - most recently, Chicago's Julius Peppers.

"I thought I did okay. Other times, I thought I had some plays I could've done a lot better on," Williams said of Peppers. "But that's football."

Brown, still slowed by a hip injury that kept him out all of last season, has also given up three sacks so far. In his first four years in the league, Brown gave up an average of barely three sacks per season, according to Stats Inc.

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