After working against weighted bags for more than a month, Todd Wade was upbeat about his daunting transition from career right tackle to left guard.
Then the Washington Redskins began organized team activities, and Wade no longer was blocking bags. Instead, he was trying to stop 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin.
“My stance was low the way it’s supposed to be, and I went to get Cornelius. But unlike a bag, he kept moving,” Wade said, chuckling. “My stance was too wide. The next day I was better, but I was hitting guys too high instead of in the chest. At my size, that’s something I’ve had to work on.”
The 6-foot-8, 317-pound Wade started most of six seasons at right tackle for Miami and Houston before he tore an ACL in November 2005. He appeared in two games with Washington last season, starting one.
But with the Redskins’ starting tackles — Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen — set, Wade was moved to guard this offseason to replace departed free agent Derrick Dockery.
That switch, though, has required the 30-year-old Wade to change stances and move quicker at the snap of the ball.
“Things happen so much quicker inside,” Wade said. “If your hands split and the guy gets to your shoulder, it’s tough to stop him. Cornelius is strong, but he’s also very quick with his first steps. You need really good technique and hand placement to stop someone like that moving with that force.
“You say that OTAs are noncontact, but I’m going as hard as I can and so is the guy on the other side of the ball. Everyone’s pretty bruised up. I’m not hitting with my helmet, but I’m hitting as hard as I would with my hands.”
Joe Bugel is pleased with Wade’s progress, but the veteran offensive line coach knows OTA days can’t measure up to preseason games against opposing defensive tackles.
“Todd’s getting a real feel for the position and picking it up a lot faster than I thought he would because he’s such a smart guy and because he wanted to be a starter again and he knew this was his best opportunity,” Bugel said. “But it’s tough to make a judgment now. Todd looks the part, but you want to wait until the pads are on. We’re not going to rush anything. We’re going to be patient.”
The Redskins have four backups who have started an NFL season at guard — Mike Pucillo, Ross Tucker, Taylor Whitley and Will Whitticker — providing depth in case Wade’s adjustment doesn’t work out. But Wade, who sparkled in his one start for Washington last season in place of Jansen, is confident.
“I know it’s going to work,” he said. “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m way more consistent than when I started. I’m taking off the training wheels a little bit. Before we’re released [after the June 15-17 minicamp], I have to be playing at a certain standard that will take me through training camp and into the season. My standards are pretty high. So are coach Bugel’s.”
Wade’s teammates also have high standards. Samuels, Jansen, right guard Randy Thomas and center Casey Rabach have played together for at least two years, helping Washington end a five-year playoff drought in 2005. With them, the Redskins were one of two teams to rank in the top eight in yards a carry and fewest sacks a pass attempt in 2006.
“Of course I miss Dock,” said Samuels, who lined up next to his best friend on the team the past four years. “But I know Todd will get the job done.”
Samuels has been watching Wade carefully from the sideline while he recuperates from surgery to repair a sports hernia in March. Rabach and Jansen, who have been on the field with Wade, are impressed.