- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Year after year, the Washington Redskins’ front office ignored offensive line depth in the draft and free agency with the exceptions of a lower-round pick, career journeymen and young projects.

The cost of that negligence will be determined over the Redskins’ final 11 games.

With right guard Randy Thomas already lost for the season, coach Jim Zorn said Monday left tackle Chris Samuels will miss at least this week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs after sustaining a neck stinger early in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Arguably the Redskins’ most indispensable offensive player, Samuels played the past several years with a narrowing of the spinal column. He underwent an MRI after the Redskins returned from Charlotte, but Zorn would not speculate how long Samuels will be sidelined.

The Redskins will move right tackle Stephon Heyer to left tackle and Mike Williams from right guard to right tackle. Chad Rinehart or Will Montgomery will start at right guard.

“Not everything is jelling, but that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome these things,” Zorn said at Redskin Park. “That’s what we’re aiming to do.”

During training camp, Zorn and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato expressed confidence that the starting line would stay healthy (a false hope) and that the reserves would provide solid reinforcement (to be determined).

The Redskins haven’t drafted an offensive lineman in the top two rounds since they chose Derrick Dockery in 2003, and he left after four seasons for the Buffalo Bills before returning to Washington this season.

Zorn defended the Redskins’ lack of aggressiveness in drafting linemen and spending money on free agents.

“I believe this: As we worked through these issues at the critical moments, we made strong efforts to sign a free agent on the O-line and looked at the draft,” he said. “But as those things came up, either those guys re-signed with their own teams or other teams. In the draft, we felt other players were better and higher on the board at that particular time.”

The players are acutely aware of the front office’s record.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers said every level of the organization should be blamed for the 2-3 start that put the Redskins in the NFC East cellar.

“Not only does it start with players and coaches, it starts with ownership,” Rogers said. “They bring everybody in and have the last say-so on everything, so that’s where it starts.

“Things ain’t working, and when things don’t work changes come, whether it’s good or bad. Players panic and coaches panic, too, when [bad] things happen. We have a lot of things to iron out, from personnel to coaches to whatever - there are just a lot of things. Until we address those issues and turn them around, we’re going to be the same, going up and down.”

Rogers agreed that it would be impossible for Cerrato and owner Dan Snyder to engineer a massive roster overhaul this week or later this month even if they wanted to.

“You can’t do too much right now - you have to go with what you’ve got and make the best with it,” Rogers said. “They’re making changes where they feel they need to. Other than that, players and coaches have to step up, and we have to find a way. That’s the bottom line. We have to find a way to turn it around.”

Just as the subject of Zorn’s job security continues to produce buzz in the locker room and the Redskin Park hallways, so too does the question of the future of some players.

The coaching staff already diminished the roles of Rinehart (although that may change), cornerback Fred Smoot and tight end Fred Davis.

“You always wonder about your future and Jim’s future,” Rogers said. “I don’t worry about me. Either I’m here or I’m gone. [If the Redskins continue losing], a lot of people are going to be gone. They’ll need to build again. It’s not just the coaches [going]. It’s the players, too.”

Said special teams co-captain Rock Cartwright: “Guys have been on eggshells walking around for the last couple weeks, but we don’t make that decision - Mr. Snyder and Vinny do. We’re still behind Coach Z, and we’ll still fight for him, and we’re going to continue to try and win football games.”

Rogers and the rest of the defense certainly did their part against Carolina, producing two takeaways that turned into 14 points. The special teams also have been productive other than a 55-yard kickoff return allowed to the Panthers.

The continued struggles of the offense (a season-low 198 yards) put Zorn under heavy scrutiny - particularly the adjustments he’ll need to make to his playcalling and scheme because of the offensive line injuries.

The Redskins remained 27th in the league in points and slipped from 13th to 23rd in yards. And now Zorn will have to get things on track minus two of his top three linemen.

A consequence of Samuels’ absence will be the need to keep tight ends and running backs in protection, limiting Jason Campbell’s targets, or utilize more three-step drops, which would limit the vertical game to receiver Santana Moss.

“It is so hard to do this with these kinds of losses - they’re just heartbreaking,” Zorn said. “It’s my responsibility. It’s nobody else’s, and I know that. I have resolve. I have commitment. I’m going to get right back in line and go do it again. We’re not trying to do the same thing week and week out. I want to be 5-0, but we’re not. We have to face our reality and get back at it and try to figure the formula out.”

While Zorn and his staff try to devise a winning formula, Rogers said the players can’t spend practice time and Sundays concerned about the future.

“If you’re worrying about if you’re going to be here or gone, you’re not going to perform on the field - [Campbell] and I talk about that all the time,” he said. “The way I look at it, if I’m not here, somebody will want me.”

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