Redskins’ Offensive Linemen Blocking Out Bad Memories Of 2010
By ZAC BOYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
This story appeared on page B1 of Wednesday’s Free Lance-Star
ASHBURN–Chris Foerster noticed it all started to come together during the Washington Redskins’ bye week in early November.
First-year head coach Mike Shanahan‘s zone-blocking scheme wasn’t working so well. The Redskins had used four different lineups to that point, including eight different linemen, and any type of personnel adjustments weren’t working.
Together, Foerster and the unit sat down and started to watch film of the first eight games. They noticed the errors the linemen were making, and they set out to correct them.
“From that point, we started to build, and we got better,” said said Foerster, Washington’s offensive line coach. “We weren’t still as good as we needed to be, but we got better as the year went on.”
Though the Redskins allowed fewer tackles for loss–50 in the eight games before the bye week and 41 in the eight after–there were still plenty of troubles. The 46 sacks allowed were fifth-most in the league, and Redskins quarterbacks were hit 110 times–tied with Jacksonville for the NFL’s highest total.
The improvement, though, was noteworthy to Foerster. The Redskins settled in with a semi-permanent offensive line with four weeks to play, and the nucleus of that unit, minus center Casey Rabach, who was released, returns this season.
That has all the members of the offensive line thinking this year will be much better.
“I think we’re still going to have to get used to each other a little bit, but the camaraderie’s there,” left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “It’s not like everybody’s got to earn that trust back with each other. We know, for the most part, with everybody in the group, what we can do and we can’t do. I think it’s good. We jell well with each other.”
With Rabach gone, the Redskins made just one adjustment. Will Montgomery, a center at Virginia Tech from 2001-05 who played in 13 games and started six at right guard, moves back to his college position.
That caused an opening for Chris Chester, a 6-foot-3, 315-pounder who spent his first six seasons in Baltimore and signed a five-year, $20 million deal on July 28.
Foerster, the offensive line coach in Baltimore when Chester was drafted, liked his versatility and thought he’d be a perfect fit for the zone-block scheme.
The execution is different in that zone blocking places an emphasis on stretching a defense and creating a seam for running backs, as players don’t necessarily power forward as they would with a downhill running game.
Chester agreed that that it was a good fit and even admitted it was among the reasons he chose to sign with the Redskins.
“This scheme really utilizes athletic linemen and guys that can run,” Chester said, though he cited his desire to stay in the area and the contract as additional reasons. “That’s why I knew this zone system would really suit me and give me a chance to take my game to the next level.”
Trent Williams, projected to start at left tackle for the second consecutive season, also noticed that the Redskins’ blocking was poor. What helped, he said, was when Shanahan began to point out different players’ deficiencies.
“The little things that you overlook and the things he emphasizes [are different], and once you kind of do things right, you can see that the plays start to open up,” Williams said.
Still a concern, though, are the injuries. The Redskins don’t have much depth; they have 14 offensive linemen in camp, but outside of the five starters, three are rookies and three others haven’t played in a game.
The starters, except for Chester, say they’re used to each other’s tendencies and the additional year in the system will help lead to improvement. Shanahan hopes so, too.
“The product’s going to be much better a year ago just because of their familiarity with the offensive scheme, being with them for a year, understanding their strengths and weaknesses and trying to get the best people in position to help us win,” Shanahan said.
It would be hard not to improve upon last year’s lack of success.
“We didn’t have the offseason to build on it, but we picked up here at camp and we continued to build,” Foerster said. “We’ve got a great group of guys here in camp. They’ve all worked really hard together, and whatever comes of this will be because of their hard work and their commitment to each other in that room. They’re a really good group to coach.”