- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

Jason Fabini hadn’t started an NFL game in more than 22 months. He had never started one at guard. So despite his 10 years of experience, it was natural Fabini wouldn’t have looked like All-Pro material for the Washington Redskins on Sunday against the New York Giants.

Naturally, the career offensive tackle wasn’t pleased, even though the Redskins actually had more success running and throwing to the right side than to the left, where Chris Samuels has started for seven years and where Pete Kendall is in his 11th year at guard.

“I could’ve played a little better,” said the 6-foot-7, 309-pound Fabini, adding that fatigue wasn’t a factor. “I don’t know if it’s to be expected. My pass [protection], I could probably get a little better. There were a couple of plays where I could have had better technique. Other than that, it’s behind us, and we’ve got to move on.”

Fabini, cut by the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys in consecutive offseasons, signed with Washington in March with expectations of backing up Samuels and veteran right tackle Jon Jansen.

However, when career tackle Todd Wade’s switch to left guard didn’t succeed this summer, he moved back outside and Fabini moved inside. Wade became a starter when Jansen suffered a season-ending broken leg in the opener against Miami. Fabini joined the lineup when right guard Randy Thomas tore a triceps in Week 2 at Philadelphia. There’s a chance that Thomas, the line’s emotional leader, could return in December. Until then, the job belongs to the much quieter Fabini.

Adrenaline carried him against the Eagles — he survived embarrassing consecutive false starts in the red zone — but reality hit against the Giants as the Redskins were outscored 21-0 after halftime and lost 24-17. Not that coach Joe Gibbs was critical afterward.

“Jason did well,” Gibbs said. “He was playing against some good players [usually defensive tackle Barry Cofield, but sometimes stunting star end Michael Strahan]. Was it as well as he wanted to play or as well as we wanted him to play? No. But it’s tough. Randy and Jon had been together for years. And now Jason and Todd have to do that [almost overnight]. That’s tough. Those two guys are so conscientious and smart. I’m hoping they’ll get better and better at making the calls.”

Wade, who was making just his third start since he, too, suffered a season-ending injury in November 2005, said the Giants surprised him and Fabini with some different looks in the second half.

“Practice is never quite the same as a game no matter how hard you work,” Wade said. “We weren’t prepared for some of the things the Giants did. They were determined that they weren’t going to let us run the ball, and they did some unorthodox things with their safeties and moving guys around. Strahan would pinch inside, and [Cofield] would keep going outside. This game was really good for me and Jason to work next to each other. It gives us something to go off of.”

Although the Redskins won’t practice during the off week, Wade thinks he and Fabini can be up to speed with their communication quickly, perhaps as soon as when Detroit visits Oct. 7.

“Experience is the biggest thing that will help us out,” Wade said. “Jason has over 100 starts in this league. I’m somewhere around there. So you’re able to adapt. I need to be as responsible as I can be, making the calls, going the extra mile, being mentally on top of everything. I know from experience that Jason has to work on his hand placement — are your hands too high? — and on playing lower. But I don’t expect any kind of dropoff [without Thomas] or any [negative] comparison to the left side. I expect us to do really well over there.”

If Fabini struggles, the Redskins do have a viable option after signing Rick DeMulling last week. DeMulling started 57 games at left guard for Indianapolis and Detroit the past six seasons.

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