'Skins' unit aims to toe line after false starts

Offensive linemen draw much attention, penalties

Pro Football

October 10, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - There's a saying among the Washington Redskins offensive linemen that the best kind of attention is no attention at all.

That's because while the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are making the big plays, the offensive linemen are content to go unnoticed.

This week, however, center Larry Moore, guards Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore, and tackles Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels have been in the spotlight after the unit was flagged for six false starts and seven overall penalties in a 27-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

It's a memory that the linemen are eager to put to rest.

"We're just going to go out there and play, and we're not going to harp on it or worry about it or worry about other people asking about it," Fiore said. "We're going to get better at it, and we're going to handle the problem."

The road won't get any easier as the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) bring the league's No. 5 defense to FedEx Field for a 1 p.m. showdown Sunday.

Washington's offensive linemen realize that the onus to improve and contribute to the team's success falls squarely on their broad shoulders.

"Guys know what they did wrong," said Thomas. "I've got to play better, we've got to play better. We'll just go back to the drawing board."

The offensive line was supposed to be one of the team's strengths after an offseason spent fortifying the unit. The team signed Thomas and Fiore to lucrative free-agent contracts and selected offensive lineman Derrick Dockery from the University of Texas in the third round of last spring's draft.

Dockery has started the last two games at left guard while Fiore has rested his surgically repaired right knee.

But the results have been mixed. While the line has helped the Redskins (3-2) rank fifth in the NFL in total offense, the unit - which boasts 314 career starts - also has 26 of the team's league-high 55 penalties.

Nineteen false starts have left observers wondering if coach Steve Spurrier should reduce the number of audibles quarterback Patrick Ramsey calls at the line of scrimmage, but Jansen - the elder statesman of the group with five seasons in Washington - dismissed that argument.

"We have to communicate better," he said. "We know we're going to audible. We know we're going to get in better plays and do things. We just have to concentrate more."

Asked if the linemen's false starts could be a byproduct of the unit's desire to cut down on a league-worst 17 sacks, Redskins offensive line coach Kim Helton rejected that as an excuse, too.

"You have to be responsible and not get a jump," he said. "You've got to have enough security in yourself that you know that you can block the guy in the framework of the snap count."

The problems could continue if Thomas - the only starter who has not committed a false start this season - misses his first career start because of a swollen knee.

Dockery would start at right guard for Thomas, while Fiore likely will return to the starting lineup. Even so, the linemen say they know what they need to do.

"It sounds real easy when you say just go out and do it," Jansen said. "It really is. We just have to go out and play and do the things that we're good at."

Next for Redskins

Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) vs. Washington Redskins (3-2)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line: Buccaneers by 3

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