- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Obviously, we had a lot of penalties Sunday, and they caught up with us. We got ourselves in a hole we couldn’t overcome. You’re probably wondering how we managed to commit so many.

There are a lot of things going on as we go to the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to make sure we get up there with enough time to make audibles. A lot of times Sunday, we were getting to the line late. We maybe didn’t have the right personnel, or we were getting the play in late.

I’ll try to put you guys on the line. While we’re in the huddle, I’m always looking to see if they’ve got three down linemen or four down linemen, or if it’s a nickel package or what the defense is. That is one thing I do, locate the defense. In certain situations you don’t have to, because you know what it’s going to be. But you need to know what the defense is.

Then I keep an eye on the play clock, to make sure we’re getting in and out of the huddle on time — and also to make sure we’re not rushing ourselves if we don’t need to.

Then we break the huddle. Again, you have to be able to see the play clock, see what defense they’re in. And then when shifts and everything are made, you have to adjust.

Another thing is whether we’re in the right play. I don’t necessarily pick out the coverages they’re in — that’s Patrick’s job. If they’re in a coverage that doesn’t allow us to be successful, then we have to get to a different play. All these things take time, and the clock’s rolling down.

Then we have to make the calls after the check is made. Finally, the ball is put into play and you see if you guessed right.

In the best-case scenario, everything is called in the huddle. We get up, we’ve got the best play possible and we just go with it. If not, the formation usually stays the same, but we’ll call a different play. It could be a different protection or it could be the same protection with a different route. In the latter case, it’s very simple because the line doesn’t do anything different. It’s just “set-hut” and go.

So how do penalties occur? Sometimes you get so focused on who you’re blocking and what you’re doing, it’s hard to keep in mind that you have to go on a certain cadence. And at any point in that cadence, there could be a different play called. I have to remember that if Patrick’s ready to say “set-hut,” the next words might not be “set-hut.” They might be a different play.

It sounds like a lot, but all these things become second nature. After you’ve been in the league for awhile, things really do start to slow down. You can see defensive backs moving, corners rolling up, linebackers shifting. You take note of all those things without even thinking about them and then just react.

I guess you could say the same thing about driving in a car. A lot of times you drive in the car and you go six, seven miles, and you can’t remember the last six miles you drove. You may have made two right turns, a left turn, stopped at a stop sign and kept going. But you just do that because you’ve done it so many times you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Ultimately, I don’t think the adjusting process ever ends. Just because we’ve been in the same system for a year doesn’t mean we’re done adjusting. I don’t think Coach Spurrier is done adjusting his offense. It’s a fluid environment. The game changes over years. Protections that were excellent six, seven years ago might be obsolete right now. In computer terms, you’re always upgrading to a better model.

Coach Helton does a great job helping us understand what’s going on, so we know the X’s and O’s. Then we’ve got to go execute. When it comes down to it, players have to play. Coaches can do a lot of things, but players are the ones that go out there and perform.

Let’s hit the mailbag. One reader wants to know how much the noise at FedEx Field helps, or whether we even notice it.

The noise at FedEx helps tremendously because it’s noisiest when our defense is out there. It makes it extremely hard for opposing offenses to hear their quarterback’s cadence. That’s why sometimes you have offsides at that time. If there’s a loud noise, maybe that was “set-hut” and they go. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong.

Other times they may be in a crucial situation where they can’t be offsides. Maybe everybody moves except that one guy, and he’s a half-second late. So the noise really helps us in that regard.

The noisiest stadium I’ve ever been in was at Michigan, when we beat Ohio State at home in 1997 to go 11-0 on our way to the national championship. That was the loudest I’ve heard for a duration of time. It was like the sound lifted us off the ground.

Another reader wants to know whether I play a part in recruiting other free agents to the Redskins.

When we have guys come in who I know, or there’s other linemen who come in that I respect or that I’d like to see here, I’d like to be involved. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes they’ve asked me to take a guy out to lunch and see what’s going on. Does the guy fit our system? Does he fit our chemistry? When it comes down to it, the game’s about playmakers, and hopefully we get as many playmakers as possible.

Of course I can’t say I was instrumental in getting any players here. Most of the guys I talked to went other places. Maybe they’ll stop having me go to lunch with them.

Keep sending your emails to [email protected] See you next week.

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

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