State of the Offensive Line
This group was touted as the possible Second Coming of the beloved Hogs. Not yet. But it has not been for a lack of effort. The offensive line has struggled to find its identity through the first seven games. The line will take the heat for the disheartening number of sacks allowed and the obscene number of hits that Patrick Ramsey has taken this season. There are two glaring problems with blasting the line for the Redskins lack of production. The first is that the running backs and tight ends have missed or failed execute blocks on blitzes. The other problem appears to be the intricate blocking scheme that Spurrier's offense requires.
For the purposes of evaluating the offensive line's performance thus far in the season, we will focus on the line alone. But a disclaimer must be put forth in that for a line to truly succeed they require the backs and the tight ends to execute their blocks. Through the first seven weeks, that has not happened nor has the line played up to potential.
Here are the grades that have been given to key members of the offensive line as well as an overall grade. This grade is based on an average of the first seven weeks:
Chris Samuels - His struggles continue this season. He has had trouble staying focused at times and has been beaten badly by inferior opponents. Samuels' struggles really started last season when Spurrier implemented his new offense. Could his struggles come from the complexity of the schemes? Perhaps but that isn't an excuse for the lack of focus and being beaten as badly as he has been. He has shown the ability to dominate the left side of the line but that has been for plays at a time and not drives or games. In his defense, he has been asked to help out rookie guard Derrick Dockery in his blocking for much of the season. If Samuel's can regain the focus, aggressiveness and mean streak that he had a few years ago, he could again be regarded as one of the NFL's elite tackles.
Dave Fiore - One of the key free agents nabbed in the off-season has watched more games than he has played this season. When he was playing he was effective and filled the large void at guard that the Redskins hoped he would. Unfortunately, injuries have kept him sidelined. Fiore also seemed lost at times when he was playing which again leads you to believe that the blocking schemes may be more of factor in the lack of production than is being reported. A healthy Fiore will do a great deal to bring this line back to a level of performance we saw at the beginning of the season.
Derrick Dockery - Coming out of college, the big man was described as "raw and in need of seasoning". Well, after being thrust into the starting lineup due to Fiore's injury, even Emeril would have difficulty added enough "seasoning" to the rookie. He is as strong a guard as you will find but he is having difficulty with smaller quicker opponents and has fully adapted to the speed of the NFL. The Redskins have a good young lineman in Dockery and if he continues to mature, he and Samuels could tilt the strength of the line to the left.
Grade: C (he is being graded on a rookie curve)
Larry Moore - Has quietly been getting the job done. Most of the pass rush that Ramsey has faced has come from the outside on off the tackle spots. The center position has not been an area of great concern this season and Moore should continue to get the job done with his working man's approach.
Randy Thomas - Another key free agent signing, the former Jet has filled a major problem area that has plagued the Redskins for years. Thomas has teamed with Jansen to make the right side of the line the strong side. His production has gotten better (Buffalo not withstanding) as the season progressed. He would benefit from a recommitment to the running game. He and Jansen should continue to shape up as one of the best guard/tackle tandems in the league.
Jon Jansen - Considering that he is viewed as one the league's best tackles, his performance thus far through the first seven games would have to be viewed as sub par. Jansen has had times where he has lost focus and allowed himself to get out of position, which leads to his being beaten (as well as his quarterback). Jansen's performance has improved in recent weeks as he and Thomas have fortified the right side of the line. Jansen will be looked to as the leader of this line and how he responds will be reflected in the line's performance the remainder of the season.
The overall performance of the line has been sporadic all season and that could be in part due to the blocking schemes. Opposing defensive coordinators are throwing blitz packages at the Redskins and they winning that battle. That battle is one of numbers. When you blitz one more defender than the offense has blockers, you have an advantage. The problem is that most teams need to load up with two three defenders to get that advantage. Sadly, the Redskins opponents are getting that advantage by sending one or two defenders. Whatever the reason, the line as a whole is failing to get the job done and they are not getting the help they need from the running backs and tight ends. The success of any team depends on their line play and the Redskins are certainly no different. If they don't improve their performance, the team will need more than just two quarterbacks on the roster.
Overall Grade: C
This article was released on 2003-10-29.
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