- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008

There has been a distinct left-handedness to Washington’s running game this season. Of the Redskins‘ 80 running plays, 44 have gone to the left, 23 to the right and 13 up the middle.

That’s a testament to the development as a run blocker of five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, long a premier pass blocker. It’s also a reflection of the inconsistency of second-year right tackle Stephon Heyer, who supplanted veteran Jon Jansen in August but had yet to play consistently before spraining his left shoulder last week.

Jansen, whose 2007 season ended with a broken right leg in the opener, is expected to start in place of Heyer on Sunday against the 3-0 Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

“We are running a lot to the left, but it’s our personnel and their personnel, where’s the best matchup,” offensive line coach Joe Bugel said. “We have two veterans over there [on the left side] with Chris and [guard Pete Kendall]. Chris is a great player and a pleasure to coach. He’s one of the top three or four tackles in the league, but he wants to be coached. He’s really good at taking constructive criticism. If he does make a mistake, he knows how to correct it. He’s real consistent.”

While 10th-year right guard Randy Thomas missed almost all of last season with a torn triceps and Heyer remains unproven, Samuels is in his ninth season and Kendall his 13th. Both Samuels and Kendall have started all 20 games the last two years.

“People underestimate Chris as a run blocker because he’s such a good pass blocker, but he has really improved as a run blocker,” Bugel said. “He can knock you back off the football. He’s a very powerful man. He’s got the whole game.”

Kendall, who played four years in Seattle with Walter Jones, compared Samuels to the Seahawks’ eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle.

“Chris isn’t just a finesse player,” Kendall said. “He’s pretty powerful in the run game. He’s got a lot of explosion in his legs. Chris and Walter are similar guys. Chris knows what he’s doing, and he’s good at what he does. He gives me a great deal of confidence that the mental part of it’s handled. Physically, we’re all going to get beat on occasion.”

One of the few pass rushers who has beaten Samuels more than once in a season is Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who got past him once in each of their 2007 matchups. The Alabama natives will battle again Sunday. Samuels said he suspects Ware, who attended Troy before it became a Division I program, gets fired up to face him since Samuels played for Alabama. Ware wasn’t available for comment this week in Dallas.

“I think that might have something to do with how he plays against me,” Samuels said. “But DeMarcus is a heck of a player. He’s fast and strong. So far, so good for me this year, but some of the things I’ve been able to get by with, I won’t be able to against DeMarcus. I need to get them corrected and play well.”

Samuels always wants to play well against the Cowboys.

“I’m always a little extra pumped against Dallas,” said Samuels, whom the Redskins drafted No. 3 overall in 2000. “I never liked Dallas. My best friend from back home, Derrick McKenzie, is a Cowboys fan. I was a 49ers fan. We talked a lot of trash.”

At 31, Samuels isn’t one for trash-talking these days, which helps explain why he’s made the Pro Bowl three years running.

“I’ve been eating better, taking better care of my body, staying out of the streets, not drinking as much,” Samuels said. “I used to club a lot when I was younger. Now I really don’t go out much at all. It’s a little bit harder to get the body going the day after a game compared to my first or second year.

“I’ve had 12 football-related surgeries, but none of them were really major so overall, I’m pretty healthy. I used to say I wanted to play 20 years when I was looking at [former Redskins players] Darrell Green and Bruce Smith, but those guys are rare breeds. If I can get anywhere between 12 and 15 years, I’ll be happy.”

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