Heyer Finally Feels Like He's In the Right Position
Saturday, August 22, 2009
His new place is only a few steps to his right, but at times, it still feels miles away.
"It's not home yet," Redskins lineman Stephon Heyer said of the right tackle position. "But it'll come eventually."
As the Redskins prepare for their second preseason game Saturday night, against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, many eyes on the sidelines will be cast in Heyer's direction, studying his command of the right tackle spot. In the offseason, Coach Jim Zorn said the position was open for competition, but as training camp came to a close on Thursday, Heyer already seems to have established himself as the favorite to start to Week 1.
Whether he's completely ready for the new task or not, those who've been watching Heyer's progress since he joined the team as an undrafted rookie two years ago, are continually amazed by it.
"I remember when he first got here, I was like, 'What? Are they kidding me?' " said right guard Randy Thomas, who lines up alongside Heyer. "But you put the pads on him, he's like a beast. It's like night and day between this camp and his first."
Left tackle Chris Samuels said Heyer is "light years ahead of where he used to be." He says that Heyer, despite being just 25 years old and having started just a dozen games, has the presence of an established veteran.
"He's done an outstanding job sucking up as much knowledge as possible," Samuels said. "You can see it: His play has just improved tremendously."
Heyer is key to the success of the team's most embattled and oft-criticized unit. For the offense to succeed, its line must block -- something it failed to do with consistency last season. And while the other linemen might have to fight off questions of age, Heyer is the only one in the group who's yet to prove himself.
He's also probably the most unlikely starter on the Redskins' line. Heyer arrived at the University of Maryland seven years ago at 285 pounds. He stood 6 feet 6 and eventually packed on a lot more weight; he was listed at the start of training at 330. College coaches initially had trouble locating a size 22 cleat so Heyer could comfortably take the field. But he was never lacking in effort, said Terps Coach Ralph Friedgen.
"He used to block against Shawne everyday, Shawne Merriman," Friedgen said of the menacing Chargers linebacker and former Terp. "And they would go at it tooth and nail. But Stephon did okay on him."
Heyer's college career stalled prior to his junior season when he tore his ACL during the first week of camp.
"I always thought that he had the talent to be a first-day draft pick," Terps offensive line coach Tom Brattan said. "But he got hurt his junior year and missed the majority of the season, and he really played his fifth year here not at 100 percent."