To use one of Jim Zorn’s favorite words, the Washington Redskins “absolutely” have a Plan A for their offensive line, one that wasn’t on display during Monday’s workout but will be unveiled when they don the pads July 30.
But even before the release of starter-turned-likely-reserve right tackle Jon Jansen last week, the Plan was fraught with gambles and assumptions - risks that veterans have overcome major injuries and hopes that young and new players can perform well in their roles.
All of these potential miscalculations could impact whether quarterback Jason Campbell is allowed the best chance to succeed in proving to ownership he shouldn’t be run out of town.
The Redskins didn’t draft an offensive lineman (no surprise there), and their activity in free agency was signing left guard Derrick Dockery, former Carolina backup Jeremy Bridges and the out-of-work Mike Williams.
In the line’s current form, only three of the five starters remain the same from last year, a group that allowed 38 sacks while proving to be more efficient run blockers than pass protectors.
“We have a lot of new guys in a lot of new places, so it’s interesting to get them into the flow of things and react to different things,” Campbell said. “That’s what [organized team activities] are all about - get those things done before training camp.”
There’s no chance these issues will be resolved before the team starts a quick summer vacation June 12.
“[Offensive line] was one of the things that’s been the biggest question mark for me since after the season was over,” Zorn said.
It’s a question mark that has developed over the last few years as solid starters have seen their performances diminish by injury and/or age and the front office has virtually ignored the position in the draft (no first- or second-round picks since 2000).
The penalty for such shortsighted planning could be assessed this year.
Here’s what Zorn says he’s confident of: Left tackle Chris Samuels and right guard Randy Thomas will be fine after two offseason surgeries apiece, Dockery will fit in seamlessly as Pete Kendall’s replacement, Casey Rabach will remain steady at center and Stephon Heyer, Bridges or Williams will play right tackle.
Here’s what he should be confident of: Rabach will be steady at center, and Heyer, Bridges or Williams will play right tackle.
Everything else - Samuels and Thomas lasting 16 games, Dockery returning to form after a dismal 2008 season with Buffalo, the new right tackle being a solid run blocker - is a crapshoot.
“We’re going to find the best five guys initially… and those guys will have to stick together,” Zorn said. “We lost several guys last year, and we needed other guys to come through. I’m hoping we build a strong group.”
Zorn tried to begin the makeover last year when he started Heyer over Jansen, a move that lasted until Heyer injured his shoulder and Jansen’s run-blocking skills were enough for him to keep the job.