Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Bugel: Offensive Line's 'Front Five' Is Back

Veteran offensive line coach Joe Bugel managed a patchwork offensive line in 2007. Now Bugel has his full complement of starters, including Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas who are returning from injury, as well as some impressive rookies. Bugel spoke with and local media after a recent OTA practice:

Q: What has impressed you about new head coach Jim Zorn so far?

A: "Coach Z is great to work with--and for--because he is a great listener. He understands football. He understands our running game. We've made some adjustments in the passing game, but all of our blocking calls in the run game and pass game have stayed the same. He has been very, very fair with the new system. It hasn't been that much to learn. The players who have to learn the most are the quarterbacks and the wide receivers, with the passing game, the routes and how we call them."

Q: How has the transition been in integrating with new offensive coordinator Sherman Smith and assistant head coach-running backs Stump Mitchell?

A: "It's good. What's funny is Stump Mitchell is an old Cardinal. When I got out there [to coach in Arizona], I think he was on his last legs. He was injured at that time. Stump was a high school football coach. He has been in the pros a long time. I always had great admiration for him because he was a workaholic type of football player. With Sherman, I remember him from the old Seattle days. He is a class act. He is from Youngstown, Ohio, so since I'm a Pittsburgh native, he is close to my heart. This has been the easiest transition we have ever had. I'm not just saying that to say it. Everybody is on the same page. We have spent a lot of time together. I think that is the important thing. Nobody has an ego. It's not my way or Trailways--it's not that kind of meeting room. We do it judicially. Everybody has ideas."

Q: How would you evaluate the offensive line right now?

A: "That front five is going to be pretty good. You take Chris Samuels, Pete Kendall, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen--that's a very high quality, veteran group. They are not going to make mental mistakes for you. They are always going to be in the right spots. We feel very good about them. The key thing is keeping all five of those guys healthy for the regular season."

Q: How does Jansen look in his return from a fractured ankle?

A: "He is looking spectacular right now. He is probably in as good of shape as he has ever been. I never really worry about him and Randy. They have been pretty fast healers for us. They are both having a good offseason."

Q: Randy Thomas and Jansen have had injuries the last few years. Is there any concern about their durability heading into 2008?

A: "No, you can't be worried because injuries are a part of the game. I hate to use a clich�, but age never worries me. I coached Ray Brown at 42 years old, so I don't care how old you are. If you can still play, you're playing. Plus, Randy and Jon are in great condition. They've had time off, plus in rehab you have to work hard every single day. I never worry about injuries. Some guys who come off major injuries have great careers. Injuries are part of the game, really."

Q: Did their absence create a leadership void?

A: "At times, yes. Randy especially--Randy is vocal. He picks his spots. Jon is more of a guy that leads by example. I think guys appreciate his work ethic--that's what stands out about him. He is a great worker. This is not a boisterous offensive line. They just have good work ethic. They are a great bunch to be around. They could help me coach 50 more years."

Q: How much did the offense miss Thomas last season?

A: "We missed Randy all the time. He is one of our greatest punchers as far as the run block and being able to punch [defensive tackles] at the line of scrimmage. We missed him a lot because we plugged in [Jason Fabini] who had never played guard before. There were some growing pains there early, but the way we came on at the end of the year--that said a lot about Fabini and [Stephon] Heyer, because they ended up being the starters."

Q: What are your first impressions of third-round draft pick Chad Rinehart?

A: "He is going to be a good player. We really liked him at the Senior Bowl when they moved him from tackle to guard and he played both guards. He can pull. He looked real good in there. We were real fortunate to get him where we did [in the draft] because there were a lot of teams that liked him. He is playing on the left side right now."

Q: Andrew Crummey is an undrafted rookie out of Maryland who is coming off a fractured fibula. What are his prospects?

A: "I think he is going to be okay. He is a big kid--and tough. We are going to try him at both center and guard when he gets well for training camp. He has a great attitude. We thought he was going to get drafted and I think his agent did, too. He was playing real well in the East-West Shrine Game and unfortunately he had broke his fibula again, so that was a real setback. I think if he was healthy, he would have probably been a fourth or fifth rounder. Those kids from Maryland--I'll tell you what, if we can keep getting the free agents from Maryland, we will be all right. Heyer--nobody wanted him, but he is going to end up being a good football player. Crummey is the same way. We had him on our draft board as a draft-able prospect."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.