Sacks are no small potatoes

Despite solid run-blocking, QB protection remains an issue for Redskins' offensive line


ASHBURN, Va. -- A sack means one of two things to Joe Gibbs.

"If our quarterback is hit, somebody made a mistake or we had a bad plan," the Washington Redskins' coach said. "I'm as much a part of it as anybody because I'm standing there and studying it. We need a good plan and a good scheme."

Pass protection became an area of concern after Washington (3-2) dropped its second straight game with a 28-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday.

Kansas City had four sacks, including three by unheralded defensive end Jared Allen, who forced a fumble from quarterback Mark Brunell and recovered it to end the Redskins' opening drive at the Chiefs' 7-yard line.

Although Sunday's opponent, San Francisco, comes into FedEx Field with a 1-4 record, the 49ers have 15 sacks and had seven in a season-opening victory against the St. Louis Rams.

"I see a lot of high-profile players that can play," said Joe Bugel, Washington's assistant head coach for the offense. "We don't underestimate their defense."

Washington's offensive line has generally been solid this season. While the unit has allowed more sacks than last season (14 to 12 through five games), the running game has been consistent.

The Redskins have rushed for 635 yards and topped the 100-yard mark in each game. By contrast, the offense rushed for 493 yards and broke 100 yards just twice over the same span last season.

Several factors have contributed to the line's success. The return of right tackle Jon Jansen from a ruptured left Achilles' tendon and the addition of former Ravens center Casey Rabach have given the unit strength and athleticism.

The players also acknowledged that they are more comfortable after another year of absorbing Bugel's system.

"I think being in a system that's based on protection and having the same guys around is huge," Jansen said. "Whether I was in last year or not or [former center] Cory [Raymer] was in last year and not this year, we've got the same basic guys in the room. Everybody understands what we're doing."

Perhaps the only negative has been the lack of rushing touchdowns for running back Clinton Portis, who has 104 carries without scoring a touchdown. Left guard Derrick Dockery said rushing touchdowns are a source of pride for the offensive line.

"You want to have the leading rusher, the guy with the most touchdowns," he said. "That's something that we put on us."

Bugel said a relentless pass rush and crowd noise played a role in the four sacks Sunday, but he attributed most of the problem to technique errors. Jansen said those things are correctable.

"It's a little thing here and there - little errors that you make that give the other guy an advantage," Jansen said. "We went out [Wednesday] and worked on those, and test day is Sunday again. We'll see if we fixed them or not."

49ers@Redskins Sunday, 1 p.m., Chs. 45, 5, 1430 AM, 106.7 FM Line: Redskins by 12 1/2

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