- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2012

The left tackle that practiced with the Washington Redskins‘ first-string offense on Saturday afternoon was planning for his retirement two weeks ago. The left guard was a rookie. So was the right guard. And he practiced next to a right tackle who played with the second string all offseason.

You’ll need a team roster and a doctor’s chart to keep all that straight. Four of the five projected starters missed Saturday’s practice due to injury. And considering the fresh memories of how Washington’s decimated line struggled last season, offensive line injuries have emerged as the Redskins‘ greatest concern with the regular season less than a month away.

“We have a little bit more depth that we had a year ago, and it’s a good thing we do,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

Trent Williams‘ bone bruise in his left foot is the latest blow. Shanahan said it will cost Williams “a few days.” His status for Saturday’s preseason game against Chicago is uncertain.

Williams was injured Thursday while blocking downfield on Pierre Garcon’s touchdown catch in a 7-6 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills. Left guard Maurice Hurt rolled up his heels while they were blocking on the screen pass. X-rays did not show a fracture.

Williams has been one of the Redskins‘ best players in training camp. His athleticism and technique have impressed coaches and the defenders against whom Williams blocks each day. Losing him for any extended period would result in a significant dropoff at one of the most important positions on the offense.

Jordan Black replaced Williams in practice Saturday. When the Redskins called Black on July 30 to express interest in signing him, he had to cancel an appointment with a real estate broker. After being out of the league all last season, he planned to open some gym franchises to begin his retirement.

That’s not exactly on the level with the former fourth-overall pick he’s replacing.

But Black, who played right tackle with the second string against Buffalo, was pleased with how he played.

“I thought it was going to take a little bit longer to get the rust off, but as far as pass protection went, I thought that was pretty solid — not just for me but for the whole group,” he said. “We didn’t give up a sack. I think that’s awesome.”

The levels of the offensive line depth chart are mixed and matched these days because of all the injuries. Right guard Chris Chester (sprained left ankle), left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (right knee) and right tackle Jammal Brown (hips) did not play against Buffalo.

Chester did not participate in team drills Saturday. Lichtensteiger is out for at least two more weeks, and Brown is out indefinitely.

Brown undergoes multiple treatment sessions each day, but the outlook is not promising. Tyler Polumbus has replaced him.

“I can’t say there is much improvement, but hopefully it comes quickly,” Shanahan said of Brown.

Maurice Hurt, who replaced Lichtensteiger as the starting left guard in Thursday’s game, missed practice Saturday with an inflamed tendon behind his left knee.

“Hopefully it won’t keep him out too much,” Shanahan said.

Coaches looking for positives amid the attrition cite the experience younger players are getting in fill-in duty.

Right guard Adam Gettis, a fifth-round rookie, started in place of Chester against Buffalo, and he also played some snaps with the second string.

“I played decent,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of things to work on.”

Timing on combination blocks in the running game is at the top of his to-do list. On Evan Royster’s 12-yard run on the Redskins‘ touchdown drive, Gettis got tied up by the defensive lineman he and center Will Montgomery were blocking, and he didn’t reset himself in time to prevent the linebacker from knocking him on his backside.

It was a bit embarrassing, but Gettis did sufficiently occupy the linebacker to help clear running room for Royster.

“I love how the play went, but at the same time, the game is faster at this level,” Gettis said. “You want to help out your center with that block but also get up at the same time. Once we get that cohesiveness down, it’ll get taken care of.

The Redskins have three more preseason games to be sure of that. They expect to have Williams, Chester and Lichtensteiger back before the regular season, but they’ll continue to try to develop sufficient depth to avoid a repeat of last season.

“As long as the next man does his job,” Gettis said, “we’ll be fine.”