- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2007

Naturally, Casey Rabach says it’s no big deal.

He has worked with four different offensive line combinations since the preseason. His quarterback is still developing. The current right guard has spent most of his NFL life as a tackle. The replacement right tackle is playing with a shoulder injury. And the left guard arrived two weeks before the season opener.

It’s part of life in the NFL, Rabach said.

He insists nothing has changed.

“Jason [Campbell] knows this offense better than anybody on the team and the fact I have two veteran guards playing, it hasn’t made my job that much more difficult,” Rabach said.

At a position where each play presents myriad challenges — will the defense blitz, will the middle linebacker recognize the formation, will Campbell audible? — Rabach has faced the unique scenario of seeing two of his comrades go down with serious injuries.

During Rabach’s first two years with the Redskins (2005-06), the starting line missed only three man games to injuries. But right tackle Jon Jansen is out for the year and right guard Randy Thomas is sidelined until at least December. Throw in Derrick Dockery’s departure via free agency and the Redskins’ line against Detroit tomorrow will look far different.

Rabach will take the field with left tackle Chris Samuels, left guard Pete Kendall, right guard Jason Fabini and right tackle Todd Wade.

It will be the third starting combination in four games for the Redskins (2-1).

But the line has held up relatively well. Washington has the 10th-ranked rushing offense in the NFL.

“Casey is invaluable,” associate head coach-offense Al Saunders said. “He has the most difficult position on the offensive line because he calls all our protections for both sides, he communicates with both guards and then help them in pass protection and run blocking. He is truly the rock of this offensive line.”

Rabach really has no other choice but to lead. As the center, he serves as the vocal headquarters of the offensive line.

Newcomer Rick DeMulling saw pretty quickly that Rabach is the person to go to with questions about the Redskins’ offense and particularly their protection scheme, which includes five basic systems that each have five to six variations.

“This system is kind of like Detroit’s where the center has to know every little thing that’s going on and Casey’s on every detail,” he said. “Before [assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel] is done asking the question, he has the answer. He’s definitely a field general for us.”

Just as Campbell has to be an extension of Saunders, Rabach has to be an extension for Bugel.

“We’ve got a great working relationship,” Rabach said of Bugel. “The three years I’ve been here, we’re really on the same page. It gives him confidence in me and the rest of the line that I can do that kind of thing.”

In Saunders’ system, the center makes all of the pass protection calls. Saunders estimated that half of the teams have the center and quarterback share the duties.

“The center calling out the protections takes one less thought process off the quarterback,” Saunders said. “I’d rather have Jason thinking about progressions, sight adjustments, blitzes, where he’s throwing, who he’s throwing to, his drop, all those kinds of things.”

Rabach said there is never a play where there isn’t verbal communication along the line. After he leaves the huddle, he identifies the middle linebacker and the defensive front. Then, he sees whether the secondary rotates once the Redskins shift and motion.

“There are calls made right up until the ball is snapped,” he said.

And if Campbell changes the play, the process starts over.

“When Jason does that, we have to switch everything,” Rabach said. “If the defense shows something in the presnap read and they rotate the secondary and move another guy after we shift and motion, we change.”

This is where the communication comes in. Rabach instructs Fabini and Kendall, who relay the information out to the tackles.

“Casey’s the director out there,” Fabini said. “As an offensive lineman, no matter which position you’re at, you pretty much know what the rest of the line is doing on each play.”

While Rabach shoots down any theory that more responsibility has been heaped on him this season, Campbell respectfully disagreed.

“Casey is like another quarterback out there,” Campbell said. “When it comes to the offensive line and making sure he’s getting all the guys in the right place, he takes care of that part of it.”

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