Introducing the Most Powerful Group in Washington
By: Thomas George
Category: Washington Redskins News
Tuesday, Late Edition - Final
Mark Rypien stepped to the line of scrimmage, called for a timeout and went to the sideline for a brainstorming session with Coach Joe Gibbs.
The Detroit Lions were bunching their defense toward the middle of the field. That led Gibbs and Rypien to conclude that "Blast" was the ideal play to call. It was fourth-and-1 at the Detroit 3 with Washington ahead by only 10-7 and nearly seven minutes left before halftime in the National Conference championship game.
"Ryp comes back to the huddle and calls 'Blast' and my eyes light up," said Redskin left guard Raleigh McKenzie.
For McKenzie, for all of the Redskins' offensive linemen, a play like "Blast" is the equivalent of a receiver getting the nod for a bomb. So many linemen are in motion on the play and the margin for error is slim against a defense stacked aggressively in a short-yardage stance.
"My first thought was, 'Wow, I get to pull and lead on the play!' " McKenzie said. "Then I was thinking, 'Don't give the play away, don't move too soon.' It was a popular play for us last year but I can't remember us running it but maybe once this whole season. You get your number called and you're the guy that can make it happen. You can be a hero or goat."
Gerald Riggs would score on a 3-yard off-tackle run on "Blast" and the Redskins would continue to roll toward their 41-10 victory over Detroit in part because their offensive lineman, their Hogs, showed their domination along the line of scrimmage throughout the game.
Everything starts up front with the Redskins: the scintillating deep passes to their wondrous receivers, the bruising runs by Earnest Byner, the jerky, shifty ones by Ricky Ervins. The Hogs -- a name that lingers from the Redskins' three Super Bowl teams of the 1980's -- have helped carry Washington to Super Bowl XXVI, where they will meet the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Many teams in that near-the-goal-line, short-yardage situation would resort to raw power, bull ahead and hope for the best. Not Gibbs. The Redskins' creativity on offense includes the versatility of their offensive line. It has size, quickness, balance and smarts.
"We've got great depth," said the offensive line coach, Jim Hanifan. "In the game at Dallas, Ed Simmons is hurt and Mark Adickes plays the whole second half at right tackle and we come from behind and win. Against Houston, Joe Jacoby goes down and Russ Grimm moves to right tackle. Then Jim Lachey gets hurt and Simmons is already on injured reserve.
"We move Grimm to left tackle and Adickes to right tackle. Both did a tremendous job and we win in overtime. In the first game against Atlanta, Grimm starts at left tackle for Lachey and sprains an ankle in the third quarter. Adickes came in there and we finish with 56 points. That's a lot of depth."
Center Jeff Bostic, Jacoby and Grimm are the original Hogs, with Bostic now in his 12th season and Jacoby and Grimm in their 11th. Each has had major knee surgery during his career. Each keeps pulverizing opponents and adding another chapter to the history of the Hogs.
The starters are Lachey at left tackle, McKenzie at left guard, Bostic at center, Mark Schlereth at right guard and Jacoby at right tackle. Adickes, Grimm and Ed Simmons are reserves.
Tight end Don Warren, when not lined up in the backfield as an H-Back, gives the group more beef up front. And when the Redskins go with their Heavy package, adding either tight ends Ron Middleton or Terry Orr, the Hogs become Whales.
Jacoby at 6 feet 7 inches and 314 pounds is the biggest offensive lineman. Bostic, at 278 pounds, is the lightest. As a group, they allowed the fewest sacks (nine) in the league this season and they are as adept in run-blocking as in providing pass protection. Washington averaged 128.1 rushing yards per game this season and through two games in the playoffs has not allowed a sack.
McKenzie said part of the line's solid pass protection is because of the unusual seven-to-nine-step drop that Rypien employs. His deep drops into the pocket give the linemen -- especially the tackles -- more room to maneuver, McKenzie said.
"I think it's a better line than we had in any of this group's other Super Bowls," Bostic said. "It's the experience that makes it so. Now, instead of worrying about playing harder, you worry about playing smarter. That's a huge difference and it only comes with experience. There is no guesswork with what the other person is thinking. We've been through the battles before and not only know what the guy next to you is thinking but also what he can do.
"The 'Blast' play against Detroit was a pressure play. We hadn't run it since whenever and that's what I mean by having the experience. People still knew what to do. I give Hanny a lot of credit. He's been here two years now and he's coaching like when he first came here. He knew he was getting a group of veterans and instead of making them adjust to him, he adjusted to us."
Adickes, a Plan B acquisition from the Kansas City Chiefs in 1990, said of Hanifan, a 17-year N.F.L. coach: "He's the perfect guy for a veteran group. You couldn't have a more personable guy and he does not waste time. I've had coaches give you your plays, then draw each one up on the board all over again. He gives it to you and expects you to learn and show that in practice.
Bruce Smith: Look Out
Hanifan said his linemen respect Buffalo's defense. He is not sure whether Bills defensive end Bruce Smith is 100 percent healed from his knee injury but indicated that the Redskins will find out.
"I'm not saying we're going to run at the guy all day, no way," Hanifan said. "But at some point you can't be shy about going over there and we will. Their defensive front has shown in the last few weeks that they can stand up against anybody."
But the Hogs, old and new, have shown all season that they can steamroll over anyone.
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