Redskins guarded concerning line play

Defense takes advantage of holes in passing drills

starting jobs up for grabs

Pro Football

July 30, 2002|By Warner Hessler | Warner Hessler,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CARLISLE, Pa. - Whatever the politically correct version of "we stink" is in football, offensive line coach Kim Helton of the Washington Redskins must have come close to saying it on Friday in training camp.

He made it clear that he wasn't happy with any of the five guards competing for two starting jobs and one or two backup positions.

Throughout the week, coach Steve Spurrier had one play after another thwarted in the 11-on-11 passing drills by defensive tackles charging into the backfield with only token resistance and getting in his quarterbacks' faces. Spurrier compared the situation to "trying to pass out a basement window."

After watching the defensive tackles rip through the middle of his line and destroy yet another passing drill Friday morning, the plain-talking Helton spoke the obvious.

"If some good guards become available as free agents, and if our personnel people decide to bring in some players, my hand is up," Helton said. "I hope we add a bunch more guys. If people become available who can help us pass-protect, we need to try to add them.

"Nobody here has proven that he can be a starting guard in this system, or any system. We are very unsettled in the middle of the line."

Unsettled is one way to put it. Unproven is another.

The Redskins are rebuilding the interior of their offensive line after losing center Cory Raymer and left guard Dave Szott as free agents. And they aren't willing to pay the kind of money starting right guard and free agent Ben Coleman wants. And they are trying to do it with guys who have never started an NFL game, never held a starting position for more than a year, or are learning a new position.

Helton said he can live with center Larry Moore, a backup guard for the Indianapolis Colts in 2001 who started at center the year before. What he can't live with are the weak links at both guard positions. But, until or unless some competent guards are released by other teams later this summer, his options are limited.

Rod Jones is a natural tackle and was a part-time starter for the St. Louis Rams. The Redskins plugged him in at right guard, but he looked so bad that he was moved to left guard over the weekend.

Former Raven Kipp Vickers, a 32-year-old journeyman and natural tackle who has started 22 games at tackle in nine seasons, was inserted at right guard.

David Loverne, a backup for four seasons with the New York Jets, and second-year players Ross Tucker and Alex Sulfstead, none of whom is viewed as possessing starting qualities, round out the depth chart.

The situation has become so dire that backup center Wilbert Brown was added to the mix atguard yesterday.

"We have five guys who are all about the same at this point," Helton said.

"I don't want to give the impression the young guys can't do it, but they haven't proved it, and they especially haven't proved it here."

Tucker, a bright guy who chose Princeton over William and Mary when he came out of high school in Wyomissing, Pa., in 1997, says he tries not to get too worked up over Helton's comments to the media, no matter how correct they may be.

"I could lie and say I don't read the stuff," Tucker said, "but I'm a person who likes to read. I would like to think he is saying things for a reason, to motivate us. What he says in the papers doesn't matter to me, though. It's all irrelevant because we are going to be judged solely on how we play in the exhibition games."

But what Tucker chooses to believe is irrelevant to Helton. He has the "Help Wanted" sign up at the guard positions, just in case.

Warner Hessler is a reporter for the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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