Training Camp Preview - O-Line
As the Redskins' 2004 season grows ever closer, so does the opportunity for the offensive line to redeem itself. Much maligned for it's performance in 2003, the line has a lot to prove. With the return of the original Boss Hog, Joe Bugel, there is not only a new ringmaster to lead them, but some badly needed re-direction as well. All 5 players that started on the offensive line for the Redskins final game in 2003 will be at camp. In an off-season once again filled with many personnel changes, it is refreshing to note the continuity.
T Chris Samuels
Weight: 310 lbs
The big LT from Alabama will really be under the microscope in 2004. Though his performance has fallen off consecutively in the last two seasons, his salary hit has most definitely not. With a scheduled hit of approximately $9 million, all eyes will be on Chris to see if he can rebound to true Pro Bowl form. He was in fact selected to go to Honolulu in 2003, but as a third alternate, and as more of a name-recognition situation than anything else. A knee injury prevented him from starting in all 16 games last year as he sat out weeks 13 through 15 before returning for the final game of the season. Mentioned in all kinds of trade rumors this off-season, Samuels has a lot to prove... not to win his starting job in 2004, but to prove that he is worth the ever escalating cap figure that he carries. Look for the former Outland trophy winner to return to old form under the new direction of Bugel. Of all the incumbent o-linemen, Samuels perhaps stands the most to gain from the new leadership and direction brought by the coaching staff.
T Jon Jansen
Wih the departure of Champ Bailey, Jon Jansen becomes the most senior member of the Washington Redskins, having been here since being drafted out of Michigan in 1999. Affectionately referred to as 'The Rock' for his durability, Jansen has started in 82 straight contests since joining the NFL. The iron man also started 50 straight games for the Wolverines making it an impressive 132 straight starts for the right tackle. Now firmly entrenched as not only one of the team's senior members but as it's leader, the time for JJ to shine has come. No more going backward in pass protection as this offensive line re-learns what it means to control the clock. The addition of Randy Thomas beside Jansen was not felt completely last year as the Fun 'N Gun struggled to adapt to the NFL. With the new coaching, and the new offensive game planning, Thomas and Jansen will be an absolute force in 2004 as they continue to build chemistry between them.
G Randy Thomas
Weight: 306 lbs
Signed away from the New York Jets in 2003, Thomas came to the Redskins last season and stood out as not only perhaps the best acquisition, but was also perhaps even the most consistent performer on the team. Also drafted in '99, Thomas enters his second campaign with the Redskins with an eye for earning an actual Pro Bowl spot as opposed to the token third alternate position that he was granted in 2003. As mentioned above, right guard Thomas and Jansen will be formidable in 2004 as they work together to open holes for the new horse at RB, Clinton Portis. The agility and speed that JJ and RT both bring will be used extensively in counter treys etc as the coaching staff moves the o-line around and reminds the Redskin faithful what smash-mouth football is all about. look for the right side of the Redskins line to be among the best, if not THE very best in football in 2004.
G Derrick Dockery
Affectionately dubbed the 'condominium' by theHogs.net staff, 2003 represented a sort of baptism by fire for the big rookie out of Texas. When Dave Fiore went down in week 3, it meant that Dockery would get his first NFL start in just his fourth game. He wasn't ready. Most wouldn't be. With very few options, the Redskins kept Dockery there and he began to develop and improve immediately. He started the final 13 games at left guard and by the end of the year, he had settled in nicely. His size dictates that his weight is always monitored and kept in check, but reports have the youngster working out hard at Redskin Park in preparation for the upcoming season. Improved protection schemes, added confidence and added experience dictate that 2004 will be a great season for the condominium. Look for him to not only continue to improve, but to dominate as the new coaching staff utilize his power.
C Lennie Friedman
Weight: 282 lbs
Signed in 2003 to back-up the guard spot, Friedman took over center duties for Washington in week 8 when starter Larry Moore went down with a foot injury. He performed very well considering that the center spot is the most cerebral of the o-line positions. While his transition to center was not seamless, it was expedient, and he earned the next 8 starts. Since the Redskins re-signed Friedman, and released Moore, Washington obviously felt comfortable that the former Bronco could fill the role again this year.
C Cory Raymer
Weight: 300 lbs
Most Redskin fans will remember Cory Raymer and know that his return bodes well for the depth and leadership of this football team. Marty Schottenheimer took Raymer with him to San Diego because of that leadership, and the Redskins jumped on re-signing him in March when the free agent market opened. Entering his tenth season in the NFL, Raymer brings a wealth of experience and knowledge. He played in 15 games for the Chargers in 2004 after returning from a ruptured achilles tendon in 2002. The only question pertaining to Raymer will be whether or not he wins the starting center job. If not, he has experience at both guard spots as well and can back up the entire interior offensive line... a valuable commodity.
T Brandon Winey
Weight: 315 lbs
When Samuels went down with an injury in 2003, Winey took over at left tackle and performed very, very well. He started 3 games before a knee injury took him out of the line-up for the season finale. It was the first significant playing time that the youngster has seen since being drafted by the Dolphins in 2001. His massive frame moves deceptively well and he will benefit greatly from the instruction of Bugel. This may be a situation where Winey is in a season long tryout for 2005 with Samuels' contract situation, so look for the big kid from LSU to continue his improved play.
T Kenyatta Jones
Weight: 307 lbs
Jones was signed in Novemeber of 2003 after being released by the Patriots. He was only on the active roster for a game before suffering an injury that landed him on the IR list. Battling some personal demons, the Redskins would like to see Jones put his troubles behind him for the added depth that he can bring.
Drafted in the fifth round of this year's draft, Wilson will be working hard in training camp to make the Redskins team. With only so many roster spots availble to o-linemen, and with so many of them already filled, Wilson will need to use the intelligence and athleticism that led him to start in every college game in four years at California. Having played both tackle positions, Wilson is versatile and may even be given a look at guard.
Already profiled at theHogs.net, Jim is an interesting prospect for the Redskins. Like Wilson, he will be fighting for a spot somewhere in Washington's plans. As a former defensive tackle, he certainly has the versatility to be considered at various spots as well.
While it may appear a foregone conclusion what most of the offensive line will shake out like, camp will not be without it's battles. Raymer will not sit idly by and let Friedman occupy the starting center spot that he held down at the end of 2003. Raymer started the last 8 games for the Chargers and appears to have recovered fully from his achilles injury. When healthy, the veteran may be a better 'captain' for this offensive line. The center is responsible for most of the 'thinking' that the offensive line does during the game, and we are expecting for Raymer to perhaps win the job based on just that.
Perhaps the most telling camp battle for the linemen will not even involve linemen at all. The QB battle will impact the line in more ways than usual with Mark Brunell being left-handed. Should he emerge as the starting QB, then obviously the line will have to adjust to a new dynamic. Jansen would become the weak side tackle, and Samuels the strong. Because the line will be taking reps with both quarterbacks, camp will be a good time for the line to practice both scenarios. You can also expect a lot of coaching between the whistles as Bugel helps teach each player their new roles. You can also expect for that instruction to not always come quietly.
The progress of the group as a whole will likely be the most entertaining and telling thing to watch for at camp. As a line that has grown used to going backwards in pass protection gets more and more comfortable moving forward in run protection, spirits will rise. Most linemen will tell you that they much prefer the latter to the former. As the unit learns their respective roles and comes to realize just what they will mean to the success of this club, look for an emerging confidence. The Hogs had it, and Bugel will create the same swagger with the Dirtbags. It will be hard to see tangible proof of the line's transformation in practice though, as there will be an inherent nastiness being developed, and that will more likely surface only in game-time situations. But the swagger will be there almost immediately.
Also look for Jon Jansen to continue to emerge as the pronounced leader of this ball club. He took on a much more vocal role as a spokesman for the club in 2003 and the progression will continue in 2004. Now the leader in both tenure, and games played, the Rock has every reason to take this team as his own. The added prominence of the role that this unit will play will serve to grant Jansen both that extra drive to lead, as well as the extra ability.
We will be keeping a close eye on the offensive line when we are doing our camp reports. If you make it out to a practice, look for where the offensive line are working out and you will probably find one of theHogs.net staff. Hope to see you there!
This article was released on 2004-07-06.
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