- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

The Washington Redskins' offensive line has three simple goals, and it thinks it is close to fulfilling them.
"Winning the game, running the ball and protecting the quarterback that's all we can hang our hat on," left guard Dave Szott said yesterday. "It's taken awhile, but we're moving in the right direction."
Quietly, the line appears to be. After a preseason of shuffling and subpar performances, and amid three regular-season blowout losses, the unit finally seems to have more answers than questions.
With veteran Matt Campbell the unquestioned starting right guard, the line has remained intact for two straight weeks. Last week the stability translated into statistics as the running game averaged an outstanding 5.6 yards per rush and new quarterback Tony Banks was sacked just once.
Of course, the Redskins (0-3) are still looking for Goal No. 1 a win. And this week it must come against the outstanding defensive line of the New York Giants (2-1): right end Kenny Holmes, right tackle Keith Hamilton, left tackle Cornelius Griffin and left end Michael Strahan.
Already a top line with Hamilton and Strahan during last year's run to the Super Bowl, the Giants' group probably improved with the addition of Holmes, a free agent from the Tennessee Titans, and the increased playing time of Griffin, a second-year man.
"They know what they're doing on every snap, and they play well together," Redskins center Cory Raymer said. "And the guys they got rid of and replaced only made them better."
Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels compares the Giants' linemen to the Baltimore Ravens' celebrated group of Michael McCrary, Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa and Rob Burnett.
"I remember last year, late in the season, the Giants would be struggling the whole game offensively, but the defense would keep battling and battling until something gave way," Samuels said.
The Giants' scheme helps, sliding linemen right or left to produce one-on-one blocking situations. In last year's second meeting, Redskins center Mark Fischer frequently had Hamilton without help. The Giants poured through Washington's interior and earned a crucial 9-7 victory.
"It's a different kind of defense, not something you're necessarily used to," said Raymer, who missed last season with a knee injury. "As a center, it's the toughest defense out there. You're Gilligan. You're on the island. And besides how they do it, it's who they put out there."
Samuels against Holmes will be a featured matchup. Samuels faced both Holmes and former Giants right end Cedric Jones last season, and the second-year blocker believes New York made a big upgrade when it signed Holmes.
"I managed to play pretty decent on [Holmes]," Samuels said. "He didn't get a sack but he got a pressure or two on me. Last year my weakness was the bull rush; he put me on my backside a couple times. I know him better now, so I think I'll play a little better against him."
But the key battle will be right tackle Jon Jansen against Strahan. Strahan has 65 career sacks but none against Washington since Jansen joined the team in 1999; in the eight meetings that preceded Jansen's arrival, the three-time Pro Bowl defender had 71/2 sacks against the Redskins.
"He's one of my favorite matchups because it's one of those games that you've got to get up for," Jansen said. "If you don't, you're going to get your butt whooped."
The line's key concern during a rocky preseason was right guard, where two since-cut players started before undrafted rookie David Brandt won the job. But Brandt sprained a knee in Week 1 and Campbell since has locked up the spot, even though coach Marty Schottenheimer initially believed Campbell wasn't quite big enough for the power position.
Now Campbell's unquestioned presence allows the line to function more cohesively and perhaps capture its third goal.
"I believe we have a good offensive line. I believe we have a good offense," Raymer said. "But to be an offense, you've got to score points, and that's something we've been lacking the last couple weeks. We've got to figure out how to do it against a defense that's one of the best in the NFL."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide