- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Washington Redskins had serious concerns heading into training camp about how an offensive line that sagged so miserably the second half of last season would hold up this month against the ferocious defenses of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England.

Through two games, the results have been surprisingly positive. Neither the Steelers nor the Ravens, ranked first and second overall in total defense in 2008, got to quarterback Jason Campbell.

“I’m so pleased with the way our group has adjusted to this,” line coach Joe Bugel said Tuesday, three days before a matchup with the Patriots. “I like playing those three teams. You’re playing great players, real All-Pros, so you get a chance to [learn] how far are we away or how close are we. You find out who you really are.

“They’ve been really good. They’re molding together. They’ve got great chemistry. If we can keep that bunch healthy, I think we’ll have a very, very good line.”

Left tackle Chris Samuels, 32, and right guard Randy Thomas, 33, each coming off two surgeries, have held up. Derrick Dockery has blended seamlessly back into the left guard spot he had filled from 2003 to 2006 before leaving for Buffalo. Center Casey Rabach, whose contract is expiring, remains the linchpin a month from turning 32. Stephon Heyer easily held on to the right tackle job he inherited from the departed Jon Jansen.

“Stephon’s way ahead of everybody,” Bugel said. “He’s a legit tackle. He’s improved tremendously. He deserves this opportunity, and he’s taken advantage of it. He’s a completely different person right now. It means something to him. He’s very serious.”

Coach Jim Zorn said Heyer hasn’t won the job by default thanks to injuries that have afflicted competitors Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges, also noting that the running game no longer has to be left-leaning behind six-time Pro Bowl pick Samuels.

As for 2008 third-round pick Chad Rinehart, Bugel merely said, “He’s getting a lot of play.”

The other great offseason hope, Williams, could miss a second straight game with a sprained left ankle after being out of football for two seasons.

“He’s a power blocker,” Bugel said. “He can mow you down. Unfortunately, he [has] had some nagging injuries. At some point, you have to say, ‘I’m playing.’ Tape an aspirin on it. Tape an Alka-Seltzer. Let it dissolve. Play. This is a violent game. You’re gonna be hurtin’. If you’re not hurtin’, you’re standing over there with me on the sideline.”

Cartwright sidlined

Williams, cornerback Carlos Rogers (calf), running back Rock Cartwright and offensive tackle Devin Clark (knee) didn’t practice Tuesday. Clark’s knee flared up following his return to practice Monday. Cartwright has a sore groin.

“It’s been bothering me all during training camp, but it got worse the last couple of days so I had to sit out,” Cartwright said. “You gotta be smart about it.”

Fullback Mike Sellers (knee) returned after missing Monday’s practice.

Puffing up the Redskins

Patriots coach Bill Belichick raved about the Redskins, particularly the defense, in advance of Friday’s game.

“The Redskins are probably as good as any defense we’ll face,” Belichick said. “They have a good front seven, good corners, good safety - [LaRon] Landry is really an impact player. [DeAngelo] Hall and Carlos Rogers are as good, as talented corners as there are in the league.

“The front four is tough with [Andre] Carter, [Albert] Haynesworth, [Cornelius] Griffin and [Phillip] Daniels, And, of course, the linebackers, [they] have added [Brian] Orakpo there, who rushed for them in sub situations. [London] Fletcher [is an] outstanding player, leading tackler in the last decade or whatever. He’s just a tackling machine.”

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