- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

People probably have heard that in the first preseason game we didn’t game-plan, that we watched some film and just played.

And that in the second game we game-planned a little more because we were playing a different defense. A lot of people probably want to know what we mean by game-planning.

We have a great example with the team we played last week in New England, and the team we have this week in Baltimore. They’re two unusual defenses, because they play a 3-4 defense as their base set. Most teams are “four-down,” which means four down linemen and three linebackers.

When we talk about game-planning, we’re trying to put ourselves in a position to be successful. We’re trying to develop matchups that give us the advantage. An example with the 3-4 would be: Do we want to block the two outside linebackers with the tackles? Or do we want to block the two inside linebackers with the offensive line?

If we block the two inside guys, that means the two backs, or the tight end and back out of the backfield, have to take the two other guys. And vice versa. There’s also some overlay here and there, where we can give some help. But mainly we want to put our best blockers on their best players. That’s what we mean by game-planning.

For Carolina, we didn’t game-plan a whole lot. We knew what their defense was. It’s very similar to our defense. And we had practiced against our defense and were very comfortable with it. We didn’t say, we want to match up me one-on-one with Julius Peppers. Or if Peppers is having a good season, we might try to chip a back out of the backfield. We didn’t do that.

Then we saw New England and their 3-4 defense. We said, they’ve got some good outside rushers. We want to put our tackles on those guys.

If we were to block our defense, we would game-plan it so we’d pick up LaVar Arrington with offensive linemen and not put him on a back, or single him up on a tight end. Obviously sometimes there’s no way around it, and you hope you win that battle that one time.

This week we’re going to do it a little more with Baltimore. We have a whole week now where we’re focused on them. We’re not worried about breaking camp. We’re preparing for them as we would a regular game.

Let’s take some questions. The first one I’ll address is, “How is the offense, with so many newcomers, coming together?”

I think you’ll notice in the first preseason game that we didn’t come together at all, except for maybe one or two plays. In the second game, you saw us come out a little rusty and then in the second quarter we started to put some drives together and we actually put some points on the board.

I think that’s an evolution of our offense. We’re finally getting comfortable with each other and what the plays are. Once we start doing that, you’ll see the confidence start to come around. I think this week we’ll be able to hit the ground running, and really do some things starting with the kickoff and all the way through.

Here’s another question: “Did it prepare you better to play at a top college like Michigan, rather than a smaller school?”

I think so. People say it’s hard to start as a rookie. Well, I was playing against a lot of the same guys I had seen in college. And instead of playing one or two big games a year, where you really gear up for that school, it’s every week in the Big Ten, where you’ve got to prepare for Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

Are you playing against an NFL-caliber player every week? No. Maybe you’re playing against one or two. But you have to mentally prepare. And I think that mental preparation is what really gears you up for the NFL. Because once you get here, everybody’s a good athlete. But you have to be mentally right for the game — and be mentally right for 16 weeks.

One more question: “Who’s the biggest cut-up on the offensive line?”

Oh, geez. I’ll tell you, the biggest cut-up on the offensive line, and the sneakiest guy on the offensive line, is Ethan Albright. Because nobody expects it. He just sits back there, doesn’t say anything, and then all of a sudden something happens and everybody’s pointing fingers, and nobody’s pointing at Ethan.

Ethan sits in the back of the room next to Tre Johnson, and Tre will be the first to tell you that Ethan will get any man in trouble. He’s been around 10 years. He’s learned from a lot of crafty veterans.

Nobody ever turns on Ethan — until the subject of hair comes out. He’s not called the “Red Snapper” for nothing. Then people turn on him pretty good.

Thanks for the continued e-mails. You can reach me at [email protected] See you in a week.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy collaborates with Redskins tackle Jon Jansen on this column. It appears every Wednesday.

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