Joe Salave'a and Brandon Noble are mirror images: burly, savvy defensive linemen who almost anonymously did the dirty work that allowed the Redskins to become one the NFL's stingiest defenses against the run last season. The veteran nose tackles shared the starting job last season and were frequently rotated by defensive coordinator Greg Blache to maximize their production. The two also exhibited intangibles such as leadership and toughness. Blache, also the defensive line coach, views the situation as having two starters.
Noble didn't start until Washington's sixth game, but the 6-foot-2, 304-pounder played every game -- a noteworthy accomplishment after he suffered a serious knee injury that forced him to miss the 2003 season. Because Noble had not recovered by the beginning of last season, Salave'a -- signed before last summer to provide depth -- became the starter. Salave'a, 6-3 and 295 pounds, was a big bundle of energy with good quickness for his size. Salave'a, who often punctuated tackles with a celebration mimicking the playing of a guitar, started nine games and appeared in 15.
Noble hasn't been able to practice in training camp because of a knee infection. But Blache refuses to predict who will start at such an early juncture. Blache realizes it would not be prudent to rule out Noble, who last season was named the team's recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, given annually by the NFL to one player from each team who overcomes serious injury.
FRESH FACE: BROCK FORSEY
Position: Running back.
College: Boise State.
Who He Is: Forsey has spent most of his career as a special teams player, playing with the Chicago Bears in 2003 and the Miami Dolphins in 2004. He signed with the Redskins as a free agent in May.
"Brock's one of them quiet guys that doesn't say much, and they're the one's you gotta keep your head on a swivel" to look for, special teams coach Danny Smith said. "He's a businessman. I respect his work habits. He listens, he pays attention, he asks good questions and he goes out and works his butt off, and you can win with guys like that."
How He's Doing: Forsey gets sporadic work at running back, so he's keying more on special teams. Though he rushed for 134 yards on 27 carries in one game as a rookie, most of his NFL action has been on special teams. "Unless you're going to be a starter . . . you gotta be able to play special teams," Forsey said. "That's going to be just as important as offense for me right now."
Chances of Making the Roster: It seems Forsey has done what's needed: getting Smith's attention. Said Smith: "Brock's doing a great job. He's a fierce competitor. He's a tough guy. I think he's going to shine when we put the pads on. . . . We're expecting him to be successful and be a contributor for us on special teams. . . . He has a legitimate chance."
"I'd say more maniac [than enthusiastic]. . . . He's the only guy out here that needs to be drug-tested."
Coach Joe Gibbs, joking about the coaching style of special teams coach Danny Smith
COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF
Days until the Redskins play the Bears at FedEx Field
-- Nunyo Demasio and Daniel Lyght