- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

Nothing was going right. The sacks and penalties were piling up, and the Washington Redskins’ offense was stuck on zero points Monday night against Dallas and on zero touchdowns for the season.

But the sideline, according to assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, remained “energized,” and perhaps no unit was more so than the offensive line.

That energy and confidence was justified when the Redskins scored two late touchdowns to shock Dallas 14-13 and enter their bye week at 2-0. The offensive line pointed to a renewed togetherness as the reason Washington was able to persevere.

“It’s definitely made a huge difference, especially in times of trouble,” right tackle Jon Jansen said. “We didn’t necessarily have a couple good series in Dallas, and it would have been easy to point the finger and blame it on something. But having the camaraderie that we do and knowing where everybody is going to be, we were able to fight through it and have a great fourth quarter.”

Jansen, who has been with the Redskins since 1999, won for the first time at Texas Stadium and admitted the upbeat attitude was a “little bit” different.

“We had the confidence that we could make the comeback and that we could do what we did,” he said. “Just having that confidence allows you to have more energy on the sideline.”

Getting along and having cookouts — like the line did during the preseason — and posting a thrilling victory are great, but the bottom line is the Redskins have two touchdowns in two games and rushed for only 104 yards against the Cowboys.

Most concerning to coach Joe Gibbs are the eight sacks — only four teams have allowed more. Gibbs said yesterday pass protection was a focus during the 90-minute practice.

“We’ve been disappointed in our pass protection, and we went over our different protections and reviewed everything from the first two weeks,” he said. “There are some things we can change from a strategy standpoint and an individual standpoint because we need to be much better than we have been.”

Sacks resulted in a red zone turnover against Chicago and moved the Redskins out of field goal range against Dallas.

“We’ve done good things, but we definitely have room for improvement,” left tackle Chris Samuels said. “Guys taking turns getting beat — we can’t continue to do that if we expect to be as good as we want to be.”

Still, Samuels said, the line is “light years ahead” of where it was at this point last season.

The dynamic of the line has altered this season with the return of Jansen to right tackle, the signing of Casey Rabach at center and the entire cast becoming more comfortable with Bugel.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in the past 12 years,” Bugel said. “They’ve accepted everything I’ve asked them to do, and they’re probably the hardest working line I’ve ever coached and that includes some good players I’ve had in the past.”

Without Jansen last season, the line was without a leader and a mean streak.

And above all, that’s what Bugel wants from his charges.

“We’re not a finesse team,” he said. “We’re a downhill, vertical push football team. We won’t put a pair of pink panties on and not come off the ball. That’ll never change here.”

Said left guard Derrick Dockery: “Bugs always says, ‘This is a grown man’s game.’ Every week we have to come out and play physical because you’re either going to do the hitting or be hit.”

When it was time to be physical up front, the Redskins answered the bell, giving Mark Brunell enough time to throw long touchdown passes to Santana Moss. If the sacks and penalties are limited, Bugel knows the line could develop into a team strength.

“This is a rare group right here,” Bugel said. “Their work ethic, their passion for each other — they won’t let each other down.”

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