Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Joe Bugel didn’t mince words yesterday about his offensive line’s performance in the Washington Redskins’ preseason opener at Tennessee.

The starting line allowed two sacks and struggled to open holes for a running attack that averaged only 2.9 yards a carry Saturday against a Titans defense that ranked last in the NFL in 2006. The showing bore no resemblance to those of last season, when the line allowed just 19 sacks and was instrumental in the running game, which averaged 4.5 yards a carry.

“We didn’t play up to our standards,” said Bugel, the team’s assistant head coach-offense. “I was very surprised. Not sick but surprised. They played faster than we did. They played better than we did up front. They played with more enthusiasm. They were powerful, and we didn’t get a whole lot of movement up there.”

Making matters worse, Todd Wade, first in line to replace departed left guard Derrick Dockery, injured his right shoulder early in the game. Wade joined left tackle Chris Samuels, who has a sprained knee, on the sideline during yesterday’s practice.

Wade, who spent his previous seven seasons at right tackle, said he expects to return today. But as of now Bugel plans to play Mike Pucillo on Saturday against Pittsburgh.

“Todd deserves every chance,” Bugel said. “He needs a lot of work. Everybody looks good in practice in their underwear. You’ve got to put the silks on. If Todd’s going to learn, he’s got to learn on game day. Unfortunately, he’s injured right now. If Todd can’t practice, I’ll probably play Pucillo Saturday, get a look at him at left guard. When Todd gets back, we’ve got to find out [whether he can play]. If he can’t play in there, he’ll go back to tackle.”

Although optimistic about his recovery from a shoulder he said was slightly dislocated, Wade was harsher on his performance than Bugel, who termed it OK.

“When you look at the film and it’s average or below average, I wasn’t happy,” Wade said. “The technique was a little sloppy. I wasn’t playing with the leverage I wanted to play with. You work hard in practice, and you expect to be able to take it out there in the game.”

That goes for the whole line. Stephon Heyer, subbing for Samuels, looked at times like the rookie free agent he is. Center Casey Rabach committed a penalty. And right tackle Jon Jansen tripped over right guard Randy Thomas at one point, causing one of the sacks.

“We left some room for improvement,” Jansen said. “You don’t want to play the Super Bowl in your first game. We’ve got some footwork issues we’ve got to solve. We’ve got some technique things we’ve got to solve, and then we’ll be right where we want to be.”

That’s debatable, at least until Samuels returns later this month. It doesn’t help that Heyer sat out team drills yesterday after tweaking his left hamstring.

“We have some work to do,” Bugel said. “The running game is our thing. We have a lot of work to do, and we’ll get it done in practice. Five sacks is too many. We [allowed 19] last year, and we give up five in an exhibition game. That’s unheard of. We want to get that rectified. When they watched that tape today, they understood what they did wrong, and they don’t want it to happen again.”

The trouble is that the final three preseason foes — Pittsburgh (No. 9), Baltimore (No. 1) and Jacksonville (No. 2) — all were much better defensively last season than Tennessee. And Miami, the season-opening opponent, ranked fourth in the league.

“We got a little reality check the other day,” Bugel said. “This preseason will determine a lot because we’ve got four AFC teams. You couldn’t ask for anything better in preseason.”

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