Redskins Search For Help on Line
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; Page E01
Coach Joe Gibbs and his offensive staff spent yesterday mulling their options to try to stabilize the Washington Redskins' offensive line after another round of injuries in Sunday's 17-14 loss at Green Bay.
Gibbs said the team will have a better determination of the extent of injuries to center Casey Rabach, starting right tackle Todd Wade and reserve tackle Stephon Heyer by the start of practice tomorrow, but several contingency plans are in place and another reshuffling of the line could be looming.
The injuries are the latest to a line that suffered key losses early. Starting right tackle Jon Jansen broke his leg in the opener and was lost for the season and right guard Randy Thomas tore his triceps in the second game. Thomas could return in December but he said he fears the team will place him on the injured reserve list, which would end his season, because it needs to free up a spot on the roster with so many other linemen injured.
On Sunday, Rabach and Wade strained their groin muscles and Heyer strained his hamstring. Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine, said he is unsure which linemen will be able to practice this week, and said their status could change daily because of the nature of their injuries.
Rabach's loss would be the most taxing on the team, even for one game. He is a bright and athletic center who can make plays in the open and block deep into the secondary. Praised for his ability to set the offense and make calls to adjust to defenses, coaches say he makes those around him better. Mike Pucillo would replace Rabach -- he filled in during Sunday's loss -- and there was some fear that Rabach's injury could be severe, as it generally takes something extremely painful to force him out even for a snap. "Casey's never missed anything since he's been here, which is what concerns you," Gibbs said. "So I know it was something for him to come out of there. It's probably going to take a couple of days to see who's healthy and who is not."
Rabach, who was walking gingerly yesterday, referred to his injury as a "tweak" and called himself "day-to-day." Wade said his groin was "still pretty sore" and expected to need at least a few days off. Heyer said his hamstring was still tender but he was walking well. None of the players knew when they would return to the field, but they did not expect the problems to be long-term.
"We're concerned about all of them, but I think we're going to be okay with Casey," Tyer said. "We'll see how it goes day-to-day and update as we go."
Each injury to a lineman sends ripples throughout the offense. The Redskins have struggled to run the ball the last four weeks, especially from the injury-depleted right side, and the Packers ravaged the line in the later stages of the game, when Washington essentially was out of reserves after Heyer was injured. Wade had to come back into the game. "That's never happened to me before," Gibbs said of losing three linemen in one game.
Gibbs would like to maintain some continuity on the unit and recast the line unit from within. Veteran Jason Fabini, who has started at right guard since Thomas was hurt, could move to right tackle when the Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday if Wade cannot start; Fabini spent the previous nine years of his career at tackle. In that case, veteran guard Rick DeMulling, who was signed after Thomas's injury but has yet to play on offense, would start at right guard, Gibbs said.
"Those are some of the things we're analyzing," Gibbs said.
If Pucillo has to start at center, then DeMulling likely would have to assume Pucillo's role as the tackle eligible in Washington's "jumbo package" -- one of its more effective running formations and a set it often uses. DeMulling said that when he signed with the Redskins he was told he might have to fill that role, and though he has yet to practice it with the team, he expected to do so this week.
"When I first got here they told me to brush up on [tackle eligible], and with everybody hurt now it's a merry-go-round," said DeMulling, who was signed Sept. 20. "Obviously, I don't know the full offense and I haven't been doing the technique all that long, but I've just got to do the best I can and do whatever they need me to do."