Veteran guard Keith Sims received an e-mail message this week from his mother, who was in the stands Sunday at Giants Stadium to watch her son and his Washington Redskins teammates beat up on the New York Giants, 50-21. The message, Sims said yesterday, was that it was nice to see him having fun on a football field again.
So far, the 1999 season has been enjoyable indeed for Sims and the other members of the Redskins' rebuilt offensive line.
The offensive line was one of the team's biggest question marks entering the season after the Redskins yielded a franchise-record 61 sacks last year. In the first two games, it has been a strength. Quarterback Brad Johnson has been sacked only twice, both in the season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and tailback Stephen Davis has found enough running room to be the NFL's leading rusher.
"It's a new year and a different team," Sims said. "We're aware of what happened last year. We did not want and do not want a repeat. It's only been two games. We have to continue what we started."
Said veteran tackle Andy Heck, a free agent signee during the offseason: "I think we've done a nice job. We're certainly not satisfied. There are always things you can correct. I don't think you've proven anything until you've played 16 games, but we're going in the right direction. . . . We took the responsibility upon ourselves to be a group that could be counted on."
Only one member of the offensive line, center Cory Raymer, is starting in the same spot as last season. Tre Johnson has been moved from left to right guard, and there are three new starters--rookie right tackle Jon Jansen and Sims and Heck on the left side of the line.
Sims, who's in his 10th NFL season, was signed by the Redskins late last season and overtook Brad Badger for a starting job this year. He went to three straight Pro Bowls between the 1993 and '95 seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, but he says he's healthy now and enjoying the game again.
He rates the early-season play of the Redskins' offensive line only as "okay."
Sims said: "We can get better. We've done some good things, but we've made some mental mistakes."
Offensive line coach Russ Grimm's evaluation is similar.
"They're playing with a good tempo right now," Grimm said. "The true test comes over 16 weeks. You're never satisfied. On film, you still see mistakes that you need to eliminate."
D. Smith Healing
Middle linebacker Derek Smith's bruised right shoulder continues to improve, and Coach Norv Turner and trainer Bubba Tyer said they're increasingly confident Smith will play Sunday against the New York Jets. Reserve linebacker Malcolm Hamilton sat out yesterday's practice after receiving a cortisone injection late Wednesday for a bulging disk in his back. . . .
The Redskins have 85 points and 899 yards in two games. Last year, they didn't score their 85th point of the season until their sixth game. They had 93 points during last season's 0-7 start.
"Offensively, we're powerful right now," fullback Larry Centers said. "Norv is like a little boy walking a big dog right now. He just has to hang on and let us go at it."