After the Washington Redskins' first week of training camp, a semblance of a starting offensive line has begun to take shape.
The unit is expected to play a critical role as the Redskins attempt to rebound from a 6-10 season, in which they surrendered a team-record 61 sacks. The most heated competition is at left tackle, charged with protecting quarterback Brad Johnson's blind side.
For most of next week, Coach Norv Turner will focus his evaluation on veteran free agent Andy Heck and fifth-year player Joe Patton. Meanwhile, Shar Pourdanesh will be rotated with rookie Jon Jansen and Jamie Brown at right tackle.
Pourdanesh remains in the hunt at left tackle, offensive line coach Russ Grimm said. But Pourdanesh took several snaps at right tackle this afternoon, and Turner acknowledged it's possible he could stay there.
"If you end up with the premise I've had all along--that you're going to keep your best 10 guys--and Shar is one of your best 10 guys, you're going to find a place where he's in the two-deep," Turner said.
In Heck, 32, Turner sees a good pass protector and an efficient run blocker.
Jansen, the rookie from Michigan, would start at right guard if the season began tomorrow, Turner said. "He's off to a great start," Turner said. "He's had an excellent week."
At left guard, coaches like what they're seeing in Keith Sims, who has had mixed success in the league as his weight has fluctuated. Sims reported to camp at 308, lighter than he has been for years, and could beat out Brad Badger for the starting role.
Cory Raymer returns at center, backed by Mark Fischer, and Tre Johnson is taking the first-team snaps at right guard.
If Heck proves he's healthy enough to start at left tackle, Pourdanesh's biggest asset in claiming a place on the roster may be his versatility.
"When you get down to your 45-man roster, you go into a game with a starting left tackle and starting right tackle," Turner said. "Your third tackle has to play both. So there are a lot of things that go into the way we start moving people around.
Linebacker Ken Harvey, who remains bothered by offseason knee surgery, has yet to take a snap in practice but may be ready next week, trainer Bubba Tyer said.
Harvey, 34, was placed on injured reserve Dec. 11 and renegotiated his contract during the offseason for a reduced salary because he hoped to play one more season for the Redskins.
Turner envisions using him as a third-down pass rusher, which would reduce his snaps from 1,000 a season to between 300 and 400.
"Ken can provide us with great leadership," Turner said. "He can provide us a pass-rusher on third down. And he can provide a backup linebacker for Greg Jones. He can still play a game or two or even three or four at a high level. When he played last year, he played at a high level."
McNeil to Browns Free agent cornerback Ryan McNeil, whom the Redskins had worked out, signed a one-year contract with the Cleveland Browns.
This Week at Camp
SaturdayScrimmage vs. Steelers, 11 a.m.
HOW TO GET THERE
Take I-70 west to I-68 west at Hancock, Md. Continue on I-68 to the second exit for Frostburg (Exit 33). Bear right on to Midlothian Road and proceed approximately one mile to the main entrance to the Frostburg State campus.