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Countdown to training camp

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday: Offensive line | Saturday: Tight ends

The fifth of a nine-part series previewing the Washington Redskins heading into Thursday's opening of training camp.

Who's back: Three starters -- center Casey Rabach, left tackle Chris Samuels and right guard Randy Thomas -- as well as projected right tackle Stephon Heyer and reserves Devin Clark, Chad Rinehart, Will Montgomery and D'Anthony Batiste.

Who's new: Left guard Derrick Dockery is back after a two-year stay in Buffalo. The Redskins signed veterans Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges to push Heyer. Young players Edwin Williams, Scott Burley and Rueben Riley also have been added.

2008 review: Like the rest of the team, it was about a productive first half and a sour second half. The veteran group fought injuries and pass protection issues (22 second-half sacks) and the running game went south as well. Eight players started at least one game.

Offseason review: No position group has undergone more tweaking than the offensive line. Gone are left guard Pete Kendall and longtime right tackle Jon Jansen. Veteran Jason Fabini was not retained. But the Redskins failed to draft reinforcements, instead taking a gamble that the young players improve and the veterans stay healthy.

Three issues

1. Who starts Week 1 against the Giants at right tackle? It's Heyer's job to lose, and unlike last year when Jansen was benched because of a bad August, Heyer doesn't figure to be pushed by Williams or Bridges. But Heyer had better show improvement in his run blocking or Williams -- once he's down to playing weight -- could be an option. This position might even be a revolving door.

2. Why have the Redskins ignored drafting offensive linemen? The last time they selected one in the first two rounds, it was Samuels... in 2000. As for the reason, former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington summed it up on his radio show this week -- the big fellas don't move jersey sales. Regardless, the philosophy really could cost the Redskins this year if Samuels, Thomas or especially Rabach get hurt.

3. What is a bigger concern -- run blocking or pass protection? Pass protection for sure. The Redskins are solid in the running game and will be as long as Clinton Portis stays healthy. But the pass protection could be dicey, and that would force Jim Zorn's hand. If right tackle is a sore spot, he'll have to put in an extra tight end to help out and that limits the number of receivers on the field.

KEY STATISTIC

40 Combined years of NFL experience for the projected starting offensive line.

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