They weigh, on average, 33 pounds more than their counterparts of 17 years ago. And instead of gathering in a tool shed for a six-pack after practice, the Washington Redskins' current offensive linemen pile into limousines that whisk them off Monday nights to dine at one of the city's toniest steakhouses.
There are contrasts, to be sure, between the fabled Hogs of the 1980s and the Redskins' offensive line today. But one man who knows both groups, original Hog and current offensive line coach Russ Grimm, sees similar potential in the present-day bunch, even if the game has undergone radical change.
"Comparing the two is tough to do, individual to individual, and it's tough to do from 1982 to  years later," Grimm said. "I felt we were good when we played. And I feel these guys can be good with it. They're bigger. They're stronger. And they face a lot more defensive schemes."
The Redskins' offensive line has been one of the surprises of the season, helping Stephen Davis become the NFL's leading rusher (1,335 yards) and keeping quarterback Brad Johnson upright for most plays (22 sacks). But its players are little-known.
The original Hogs--tackles Joe Jacoby and George Starke, guards Mark May and Grimm and center Jeff Bostic--became cult figures and fixtures among the Redskins, playing until their joints gave out. It was a different era, before free agency ushered in bigger salaries and, with it, greater turnover.
Said Grimm: "The group that I played with, with free agency, you wouldn't have held that group together. Somebody would have been offered a lot of money to go somewhere else and play, and it would have been hard to keep four of us or five of us at a close salary level."
If free agency means it is harder to hold linemen together today, the sense of purpose among the Hogs meant you could not tear them apart.
"Teams are made up of a bunch of different characters, personalities and backgrounds," Grimm said. "And when you build that chemistry, it's all those guys trying to be successful on one play after another play after another play. You're all striving for one goal. After the game, some went to church, some went out and had a beer, some went to dinner with their families. But for those three-and-a-half hours, that was kind of the one thing that pulled everybody together."
In their day, the Hogs loomed larger than any offensive line ever assembled. But only Jacoby hit 300 pounds, mid-sized by today's standards. They were young at their most glorious moment, averaging 25.4 years old in Super Bowl XVII, as they plowed the way for 276 rushing yards in the 27-17 victory over Miami. And except for May, a first-round draft pick, and Grimm, a third-round acquisition, they were largely unheralded.
Bostic, undersized at 245 pounds, was signed as a free agent after being cut by Philadelphia. Jacoby was overlooked in the draft and signed as a free agent for his then-spectacular proportions (6 feet 6, 300 pounds). Quiet and intense, he was voted to four straight Pro Bowls (1983-86) before retiring in July 1994. "He wasn't a talker," Grimm said, "but he would do his job. He would pick some defensive ends actually up off the ground and slam 'em down."
Andy Heck, the Redskins' current left tackle, plays with more technique and finesse than Jacoby, drawing on experience, rather than brute force, to nullify onrushing defenders.
Grimm was versatile enough to line up at tackle or center. But it was his ability at left guard that earned him a spot on the NFL's All-Decade Team in the 1980s. His counterpart today, three-time Pro Bowler Keith Sims, has been slowed lately by a knee sprain. At 32, Sims meshes well with Heck, who shares his veteran's savvy.
Center Cory Raymer, at 289 pounds, is more imposing than Bostic, who relied on quickness and scrappiness.
May, at right guard, had an extraordinary reach. "Mark was unorthodox, yet productive," Grimm said. "He had long arms. He could get into people and hold them right in front of him, and they wouldn't get off of him."
Current right guard Tre Johnson dwarfs May. At 6-2, 326 pounds, Johnson is not only the Redskins' biggest and strongest lineman, but also the fastest. The combination makes for an outstanding pulling guard. And his passion for winning--and for seeing Davis do well--pushes him further.
It makes a difference how an offensive line feels about its running back.
In John Riggins, the Hogs had a hero.
"All the times he carried the ball, you could probably count on one hand the number of times he was hit and knocked backwards," Grimm said. "There's a respect factor. Sometimes you block for people and there's an excitement factor. If you get this guy loose, he could break it all the way. It just adds a little bit more desire or a little bit more want-to if you like the guy that's carrying the ball."
The same is true of the quarterback. In Joe Theismann, the Hogs had a leader they loved, even if he irked others.
"Cocky? Yes," Grimm said. "But I think a good quarterback has to be a little cocky. When you stand back there and four or five guys are trying to take your head off, and you've got to be able to say, 'Hey, I can fit this ball in between that safety and that cornerback. . . . ' I've seen Joe get two teeth knocked out and not miss a play. Ran to the sideline, handed 'em to the doctor and came running right back in."
The Hogs' elder statesman, right tackle George Starke, often gets credit for naming the unit. Born in 1948, Starke was a dozen years older than most of his linemates. Like Heck and Sims today, he succeeded by relying more on experience than brute force.
But it was offensive line coach Joe Bugel who came up with the Hogs' nickname. In short order, the plays that Bugel's Hogs ran became household names, too, such as "counter-trey," in which Grimm and Jacoby pulled to their right, and "counter-gap."
Those plays helped Riggins gain 166 yards on 38 carries in Super Bowl XVII. The Hogs were unstoppable that day and most of that strike-shortened season, in which the Redskins were 8-1. NFL defenses were less complex then, so it did not matter that the Redskins ran the same offensive plays over and over.
"Everybody said Joe [Gibbs]'s system was boring to watch because we'd run Riggo, run Riggo, throw the ball to [Art] Monk; run Riggins, run Riggins, throw the ball to [Gary] Clark," Grimm said. "But if you're good at what you do, you keep running the same thing until people stop it. There's a lot more things defenses do nowadays that can stop certain plays, compared to what they used to do."
The O-Line, Then and Now
When the Redskins' running game is clicking, the offensive line has been the key. The celebrated Hogs, the first professional offensive line to have its own nichname, plowed the way for John Riggins and his fellow backs to run for 276 yards in Washington's 27-17 victory over Miami in Super Bowl XVII.
This season's linemen are slightly older and bigger than the Hogs of 1982. But like that group, the line gets much of the credit for a running game that is on pace to set team records.
A look at the lineups:
Player Ht./Wt. Age Redskins years
LT Joe Jacoby 6-6/300 23 '81-93
LG Russ Grimm 6-3/273 23 '81-91
C Jeff Bostic 6-2/245 24 '80-93
RG Mark May 6-6/288 23 '81-89
RT George Starke 6-5/260 34 '73-84
Player Ht./Wt. Age Year acquired
LT Andy Heck 6-6/298 32 1999
LG Keith Sims 6-6/318 32 1998
C Cory Raymer 6-2/289 26 1995
RG Tre Johnson 6-2/326 28 1994
RT Jon Jansen 6-6/302 23 1999