- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Washington Redskins finally have a relatively young offensive line.

Center Casey Rabach, the line’s youngest starter in Week 14 of last season, will be the oldest Sunday at 32 against Kansas City. Of course, that’s not because the Redskins selected a bunch of linemen in recent drafts who are ready to step in.

Rather, injuries to mainstays Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas, as well as the release of longtime starter Jon Jansen, have forced the Redskins to scramble.

“If it was my first year… I’d probably be in the corner shaking,” said offensive line coach Joe Bugel, who’s in his 32nd NFL season. “We’re playing musical chairs. It’s my job to develop the guys - I don’t care if you get ‘em out of the trash barrel.”

Right guard Thomas suffered a season-ending torn triceps in Week 2. Coach Jim Zorn said Wednesday that Will Montgomery will start there Sunday in part because “Chad Rinehart’s shoulder is still hurting him.”

“We have to have somebody that can practice,” Zorn said.

Left tackle Samuels went down with what he called a “pretty bad” stinger on the second play Sunday at Carolina and is out at least this week. Moving over from right tackle, Stephon Heyer will start in his place Sunday.

On Wednesday, Samuels said he was feeling better, adding that the pain had eased and he expects to return this season. But Samuels, who was diagnosed in high school with a narrowing of the spinal column, admitted this is no routine injury.

“I’ve had mild [stingers before], but I was able to play,” the 32-year-old said. “This one was pretty bad. I’m staying optimistic, [but] anytime you’re dealing with the spine, you gotta be safe about it. It’s something I’m going to definitely have to pray about and take some time to think about. I’ve got to listen to the doctors and be smart about it.”

The Redskins weren’t smart when they failed to prepare for injuries to Samuels and Thomas, each of whom underwent two offseason surgeries. Hoping they would be able to stay healthy, the Redskins’ only additions to the line were the long-inactive Mike Williams and journeyman guard Jeremy Bridges, who was cut after the preseason.

So Heyer, who has struggled since inheriting the right-tackle job from Jansen, will fill in for six-time Pro Bowl pick Samuels on the left side. The 25-year-old excelled there at Maryland, and that’s where Bugel said he belongs.

“I have a lot of trust in Stephon,” he said.

Williams, who played Sunday for the first time since 2005 with Buffalo, will switch from right guard to right tackle. Bugel said the 29-year-old “has made tremendous improvement” since he joined the team in April.

Montgomery, a 26-year-old who signed in December after being cut by the New York Jets, took over when Thomas was hurt in Week 2. Rinehart, a third-round pick in 2008 and one of just two offensive linemen Washington has chosen in the past five drafts, started the next two games before yielding to Williams last week.

Montgomery will be the team’s fourth right guard in five weeks. Bugel said he feels good about Montgomery, whom he called “a tough dude.”

And there’s Derrick Dockery, who has started every game at left guard after being cut by Buffalo in February; the 29-year-old had failed to prove he was worthy of the seven-year, $49 million contract the Bills gave him to leave the Redskins after the 2006 season.

That leaves Rabach, a Redskins regular for five seasons, as the island of stability for a line in turmoil. But as fullback Mike Sellers said: “It’s not something that we’re not used to. Injuries have happened before, and we’ve had to adjust.”

Indeed, in 2007 the Redskins lost Jansen for all but the first half of the season opener and Thomas for all but three games, but they plugged in Todd Wade and Heyer at right tackle and Jason Fabini at right guard to reach the playoffs.

Wade and Fabini had been longtime starters for other teams. Montgomery, Heyer and Williams can’t say the same.

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