- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

It isn't a coincidence that Washington's offensive production has mushroomed in the two games since Ben Coleman took over for Matt Campbell at right guard. The previously winless Redskins are 2-0 with Coleman in the lineup heading into tomorrow's game with 3-3 Seattle at FedEx Field.
With Coleman on the bench during the 0-5 start, Washington's offense averaged 5.8 points, 9.3 first downs and 185 yards a game. Since Coleman became a starter Oct. 21 against Carolina, the Redskins are averaging 19 points, 16.5 first downs and 398 yards.
"I'd like to think that my size, presence and smarts helped solidify the offensive line, which got the running game started and gave [quarterback] Tony Banks some confidence to stand back there and do his thing," Coleman said.
The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Coleman, who signed a one-year contract with Washington on June 13, was supposed to be the right guard from day one even though he had been exclusively a left tackle and left guard since 1995. But after not missing a game because of injury since his rookie year, Coleman was sidelined for much of training camp with a sore knee. Consequently, he fell behind fellow free agent signee Campbell and undrafted rookie David Brandt on the depth chart.
"Not having been hurt since 1993, it was new for me," Coleman said. "I just couldn't get the irritation in my knee to calm down. I didn't have any setbacks, but it was stagnant for a while. I'm still only about 85 percent, but I'm getting back to the point of doing the things that I'm accustomed to doing out there."
Added right tackle Jon Jansen: "Having Ben in there really has improved our offense. The power that he brings, the experience he brings have been a great boost."
The 30-year-old Coleman had been a starter during six of his previous eight seasons with Arizona, Jacksonville and San Diego. Coleman also started eight playoff contests for the Jaguars, including the 1996 and 1999 AFC Championship games. Although Jansen and center Cory Raymer have been Redskins regulars for years, their 92 combined career starts (including playoffs) are 12 fewer than Coleman.
"Ben's like a walking media guide," seven-year veteran Raymer said. "You can ask him about anybody who plays in the league, and he has either played against him or knows someone who has. Ben has more stories than a book. He doesn't have textbook technique, but he gets the job done with his own style."
Added coach Marty Schottenheimer: "Ben gives us a big man in there [Coleman has an inch and 32 pounds on Campbell], and he's a really bright guy. Over a period of time, he worked his way through [the knee injury], and now he's playing well. Ben was probably [close to 100 percent] before [the Carolina game], but not having gone through much of the camp, I felt it was really important to get him back when he was sound physically."
Having started 80 of 88 games the previous five seasons, it was hard for Coleman to be a spare part. He relieved the injured Brandt in the opener against the Chargers and played on the field goal unit in all but one game.
"A lot of things go through your mind, but the biggest thing was that I continued to stay after it," Coleman said. "I've always been a grinder. I didn't feel sorry for myself and look for excuses. I knew I would be an impact player when I got in there."
He certainly has been that. The victories over the Panthers and the New York Giants were especially sweet for Coleman, who played for San Diego's 1-15 team last year.
So the South Hill, Va., native and former Wake Forest second-team All-American has played in more victories the past three weeks than during the previous 22 months.
"I thought I would be back in San Diego this year, but they brought in a new regime, so I had to look elsewhere," Coleman said. "Everybody was looking for a big, strong guy who could play inside or outside, but at the same time, they hid behind the salary cap. I've got a lot of savvy, but I'm also a physical guy who likes to mix it up. And I'm only going to get better the next nine games as I get back into the swing of things and get more used to playing with Cory and Jon."


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