- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

ASHBURN — There is no doubt the Washington Redskins‘ offensive line can improve its run blocking. It’s a problem the team has been trying to address for weeks.

If it is any consolation, the pass protection has greatly improved since last season, something the Redskins should benefit from when they play the New England Patriots on Sunday.

The Patriots’ defense has 26 sacks this season — second behind only the Denver Broncos’ 29 sacks. Fourth-year defensive end Chandler Jones has terrorized opposing quarterbacks this season. His 8.5 sacks are tied for the most in the league with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

In seven games, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has been sacked just eight times, but left tackle Trent Williams knows keeping the quarterback upright will not be as easy on Sunday.

“He presents a lot of challenges,” Williams said of Jones. “I blocked him last year when we practiced together, we did a lot of stuff together. I felt like I had a good feel for him, but breaking down his tape at the end of last year when I watched him in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, he’s a different player.

“He went from good to great at such a rapid pace. He’s a guy, he’s the nucleus of that defense. He’s going to be a handful. He has an array of moves and is setting them up. You can tell he’s a student of the game. The things he is progressing in are cerebral. I have to bring my A-game and have to be almost perfect so we can hopefully get him neutralized.”

Though the Patriots’ secondary looks much different with cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan replacing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the core of the pass rush has remained largely the same the last three seasons with Jones and defensive end Rob Ninkovich, along with linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.

Collins, in his third year, has played in 38 of 39 regular-season games since he was drafted in the second round in 2013 and has excelled as a pass rusher the last two seasons. He had 116 tackles and four sacks in 2014.

This season, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound outside linebacker has garnered attention for his freakish athleticism. In the Patriots’ 34-27 win against the Indianapolis Colts, Collins easily hurdled the linemen and blocked Adam Vinatieri’s extra point attempt.

Redskins running back Chris Thompson expects to see plenty of Collins on Sunday as Cousins’ blocker in the backfield.

Thompson, who was drafted the same year as Collins, trained with him at the scouting combine. Like many in attendance, Thompson was stunned by Collins’ 41.5-inch vertical jump.

“Jamie Collins is one of the most athletic guys I think I’ve ever see,” Thompson said. “When I saw him then, I was like, ‘This guy is physically a beast,’ and it’s been showing the last few years. They blitz pretty hard. It’s going to be a good test.”

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