Putting it on the line Skins' McKenzie knows front wall needs to block out Eagles' nightmare

January 04, 1991|By Jack Mann | Jack Mann,Evening Sun Staff

HERNDON, Va. -- Raleigh McKenzie, the most under-sung Washington Redskin, will not be on a mission of revenge in Philadelphia tomorrow. He will be trying to rid himself of "a bad taste."

"We didn't get it done," McKenzie said of the Redskins' effort in Veterans Stadium on the evening of Nov. 12, when they were humiliated coast to coast, in prime time.

"I mean up front," McKenzie said. There was, as the coaches say when they review the films, "individual breakdown."

"Yes, that means somebody missed some blocks," McKenzie said. "I missed some myself. I did some other things wrong, too, and not just physical. A couple of mental things.

"Yeah, like going the wrong way." He snickered. "All along the line, almost every play, we were letting them get on top of us."

This was a collective breakdown of the offensive line described as "the best in the league" by Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.

The 28-14 debacle at Philadelphia was too gruesome to be characterized by the coaches' euphemism, "inconsistent," as in coach Joe Gibbs' lament that the team "plays a couple of good games and then . . . " Gibbs pauses and then says "an inconsistent one," meaning lousy.

But if Rollo McKenzie's game in Philadelphia was as lousy as he testifies, it was inconsistency. For the past six years, at both guards, center and a few downs at tackle (filling in for Pro Bowlers like Jim Lachey, Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby and Mark May at every stop), Rollo has been so consistently efficient he is seldom noticed.

In 1986-87-88 McKenzie played in 45 of Washington's 47 games and started 34 of them, including the playoffs and Super Bowl after 1987. Yet for Joe Bugel last year Rollo was still calling himself "Bobby Jones."

McKenzie became a fan of the 76ers' classic sixth man as he watched Dr. J on television when he was in high school in Knoxville.

When the neo-Hogs lined up for Jim Hanifan this year, Grimm was healthy again and McKenzie was the super sub again.

By the fifth game he was the starter again, at right guard. But like the vaudevillian of yore who played alto and baritone, doubled on the clarinet and wore a size-37 suit, Rollo is available up and down the line.

To get that bad taste out, McKenzie would happily play all five positions tomorrow. "They out-hit, out-hustled and out-performed us," he said of that dismal memory. "Yes, you could admire the way they played, but it's more a matter of disappointment with our performance.

"If you didn't know you could play better . . . "

The Eagles' "talking trash" as they batted down passes and Redskins (nine injuries) all evening was no factor to McKenzie. "I didn't hear anything you don't always hear," he said. "A guy lines up opposite you and says he's going to kick your tail.

"That's part of the game. The Buffalo guys talked, and that game didn't mean anything to them."

In case McKenzie needs help, the offensive line probably will have 285 more pounds of muscle available by sundown today. Ray Brown, who hasn't played a down this year, is likely to be activated to meet the Eagles.

A Plan-B free agent from Phoenix, Brown didn't play last year until the 10th week, against the Eagles. An injury to Jacoby pitted Brown against the formidable Reggie White.

"I had him," Brown said, "but I had Clyde [Simmons] and some other guys, too, with that eight-man line they were using." The Skins won, 10-3. White went sack-less and Brown played "now and then" for the rest of the season.

This year it was the abundance of offensive linemen, more than his knee injury, that kept Brown on injured reserve, impersonating the enemy on the "scout" team in practice.

"It was a long season," Brown said, "and I guess I pouted a while about not playing. Then I started concentrating on being ready."

Brown remembered that he was where he'd wanted to be. There had been other offers when the Cardinals left him free, but he remembered "overwhelming" things about the Redskins.

"In Phoenix, when the coaches wanted to show us how to block on the counter-trey, they'd put on a film and it was always a Redskins film," Brown recalled. "Everybody around the league does it. Gut blocking? Pass blocking? Put on the Redskins film."

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