- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

Jon Jansen was making his first start for Michigan 11 years ago when he discovered offensive linemen only receive attention when something goes wrong.

Playing against Virginia before a home crowd of more than 100,000, Jansen held his own until late in the game.

“I was having a great game,” he said in the Washington Redskins locker room after practice on Thursday. “But then I gave up a pressure and it was one of those things that was pointed out — in the papers, in the team meetings, everywhere else — because I was a freshman. It was one of those things you learn to understand and accept or you get out of the game.”

Jansen accepted the criticism and will play his 104th NFL game (all starts) today when the Redskins play host to the Dallas Cowboys. Chris Samuels did the same when he was at Alabama. Samuels will play his 100th game (all starts) today.

When sacks happen, regardless of whether the quarterback held the ball for too long, or the receiver didn’t cut off his route, or the running back failed miserably in pass protection, the blame falls on the offensive line. It happened in September when the line was maligned for giving up six sacks to the Cowboys.

When sacks don’t happen, regardless of how well those linemen have blocked, the credit goes to the quarterbacks and receivers who make the big plays. That happened when the Redskins scored 31 and 36 points in their two victories — and didn’t allow a sack.

“That’s the way the position goes and I accepted it pretty quickly,” Samuels said. “What I do hate when we play a game with 70 snaps and 35 pass plays and the guy beats me once and everybody says he had a great game. I hate that. But that’s the way it is.”

What worries the Redskins is their 2-5 record. One more defeat — which would be their fourth straight and equal Joe Gibbs’ second-longest losing streak — would likely end their minimal postseason hopes.

What has the Redskins’ offensive line worried is the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense, which created havoc from start to finish in their 27-10 dismantling of the Redskins Sept. 17 at Texas Stadium. In particular, outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis need to be better contained.

Dallas’ 17 sacks are tied for the 11th-most in the NFL. The Redskins’ 11 sacks allowed are the ninth-fewest allowed.

“It’s a lot like the old Giants,” coach Joe Gibbs said of the Cowboys’ defense. “They were hard to get something against, period. If you look at this defense, they play the style that [Bill Parcells] wants and that’s what they’ve built.”

Dallas, which defeated Carolina last week, is 4-3 and in the middle of a three-game road trip. New quarterback Tony Romo threw for 270 yards and one touchdowns as the Cowboys rallied from a 14-0 deficit to win 35-14.

But the Cowboys’ defense is capable of carrying the entire team. Playing a 3-4 alignment, Dallas is fourth in yards allowed, fourth against the run and 12th against the pass.

On the back line is safety Roy Williams and cornerbacks Terence Newman and Anthony Henry. Up front is Ware, an defensive end-turned-linebacker who specializes in rushing the passer.

“Ware’s a force and even though Ellis is probably playing out of position a little bit, he’s still making great plays,” tight end Mike Sellers said. “But their defense as a whole is the biggest problem.”

Ellis leads Dallas with 4 sacks and Ware has contributed three sacks and 29 tackles. In the teams’ first meeting, Ware had one sack and three quarterback hits and Ellis had 1 sacks.

During the first three quarters of that game, when the Redskins were able to stay within a touchdown, their plan against Ware and Ellis was pretty basic. Samuels battled Ware and Jansen blocked Ellis when he didn’t drop back into pass coverage.

For the most part, Samuels and Jansen did their jobs. Ware’s sack came when he steam-rolled running back T.J. Duckett.

Only once did the Redskins uses a double team in the first three quarters — when tight ends Christian Fauria and Chris Cooley combined to block Ellis.

Today, expect more of the Samuels/Ware and Jansen/Ellis matchups and fewer opportunities for Ware to go against a running back.

“You try to avoid those mismatches,” Redskins associate head coach-offense Al Saunders said. “We felt like T.J. could handle an outside pass rushing linebacker but it didn’t happen in that case. And Ellis beat [Ladell Betts] another time. There were some things that happened that forced us to adjust.”

Saunders said if his offense is facing an elite defensive player, he’ll adjust his game plan, just like he would if he was facing a defense with a clear weak spot.

“There are things we’ll do and concessions we’ll make to try and neutralize an outstanding player on their defense,” he said. “Your game plan is tailored to three things: The scheme of the defense you’re playing, the personnel of the defense you’re playing and you’re personnel. It’s a match up of personnel in the pass and run scheme but also the blocking schemes.”

Ware, who had eight sacks last year as a rookie, is 6-feet-4, 257 pounds. Starting from a stand-up position, he tried a variety of moves against Samuels and beat guard Derrick Dockery on one play when he twisted with a defensive tackle.

“You have to get off the ball quick against Ware because he’s so fast and is still a very physical guy — just a well-rounded athlete,” Samuels said. “For me, I need to get set quick, get my hands up fast and get ready to fight.”

Samuels and Jansen — and the rest of the line — know that anything less than a win over the Cowboys and a solid game against their defense will feature a return to the finger-pointing.

“I’ve been on the offensive line my whole life,” center Casey Rabach said. “I was never a running back or a tight end. Being [singled out on bad plays] has been the same thing for me for years and years. It’s just part of the deal.”

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