- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

The Washington Redskins’ defensive linemen aren’t glamorous. None has even sniffed the Pro Bowl. Most aren’t even wealthy. But courtesy of Ron Warner, they finally have a nickname, the Coal Miners, that’s worthy of a defense that ranks second in the NFL.

Let Warner, who’ll start Sunday against Philadelphia because of injuries to right ends Phillip Daniels and Demetric Evans, explain.

“We’re like coal miners,” Warner said. “They go to work every day, and they keep going no matter what happens. That’s how we play. Everyone was saying the D-line was going to be this team’s weak link, but whenever we’ve had injuries, whoever’s gone in there has stepped up and done the job. We take pride in what we do on the field no matter who’s in the game. We go out there and we play as one.”

That’s different from Warner’s previous stop, Tampa Bay, where All-Pro linemen Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice were in another league from the backups. Not here. Take away the four expected starters (Renaldo Wynn, Brandon Noble, Cornelius Griffin and Daniels, who’s out for the year), and line coach Greg Blache’s unit has little experience.

Warner, a linebacker at Kansas, had nearly as many pink slips (five) as games played (eight) during his previous NFL career. Joe Saleve’a started just twice in six years and was out of football in 2002. Fellow backup tackle Jermaine Haley started only 14 of 52 games. Evans played in only four games the past two seasons. That’s four more than Cedric Killings, who replaced Daniels on the roster Wednesday after being idle since being cut by the Redskins during training camp.

Assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams said the line’s success is nothing new for 17-year NFL veteran Blache.

“Everywhere Greg has been, he has taken a lot of no-names and been pretty tough on the defensive line,” Williams said. “We have to have our line set the tone and set the line of scrimmage back. Those guys have bought into how we want to play and they’ve done a tremendous job, no matter who Greg has plugged in.”

Ryan Boschetti, an undrafted rookie, is the ultimate “Coal Miner.” Just 230 pounds in high school, Boschetti didn’t figure on playing college football until the coach from the College of San Mateo called.

Boschetti made All-American at that junior college and then played at UCLA. He signed with the Redskins as an undrafted free agent in April. With his weight up to 300 pounds, Boschetti will be the first end off the bench Sunday as he was against Pittsburgh just three days after being promoted from the practice squad.

“I’m just trying to make sure that I learn the position I’m probably going to play but also everything around it, just in case I’m called upon to play there, too,” Boschetti said. “Coach Blache told me back in two-a-days that he liked the way I work and he could see me helping out the team. I took those words to heart.

“My approach is, ‘What can I do to help the team today?’ When the season started, that was helping our offense get better by playing on the scout team. Now, it’s ‘Hey, our D-ends are down. We know you came in as a DT, but we need you to move over there.’”

The Redskins have started eight linemen in six different alignments without a dropoff. When a problem surfaces, Blache squashes it like he’s playing Whack-a-Mole.

“A lot of times backups sit in the back of meetings with their eyelids half-open and they figure, ‘He’s talking to the other guys,’” Blache said. “These guys have paid attention. They’ve waited for their chances, and that has paid dividends for them and for us. Our whole business is about guys willing to prepare and being unselfish, and that’s what these guys are. They pay attention to detail. They compete at a high level. They’re not intimidated by other people’s big names. They play with a confidence, a swagger.”

More important, they’ve played with unanticipated excellence.

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