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For Openers, A Lot On the O-Line




When Casey Rabach was growing up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., he would often make the half-hour trip to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to see the Packers play.

Rabach would take special pleasure cheering against the Packers' division rivals: the Bears, Bucs, Lions and Monday night's opponent, the Minnesota Vikings.

"I was definitely a Packers fan," said Rabach, who enters his second season as the center of the Redskins' offensive line. "The word 'Vikings' went unspoken where I come from. It was a great experience going to Lambeau Field. If you weren't a Packer fan, they'd deport you."

On Monday, this Redskin center who grew up a Packer fan will get to play against one of the teams he cheered so hard against as a Wisconsin youngster.

This time he'll be wearing burgundy and gold and playing in front of a national television audience in what is the season premiere for Monday Night Football, on ESPN for the first time.

There were various factors that led the Redskins back into the playoff picture in 2005. One of the most important was the play of the offensive line. Rabach's arrival was a key: He provided stability, starting all 16 regular-season games and the two playoff contests.

"The cohesiveness of five guys coming back is really what makes this offensive line successful," said Rabach. "Knowing instinctively what the guy next to you is going to do really makes the line go. We're looking for big things this year."

Assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel has high expectations for his group, which features Samuels and Derrick Dockery on the left side and Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen to Rabach's right.

That unit needs to get off to a solid start Monday night against a Minnesota defensive front that can pose problems for any offensive line.

The Vikings, now under the direction of first-year head coach Brad Childress, can hurt you at defensive tackle with the pairing of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. On the ends are Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James, young players with an up side.

Kevin Williams, the 6-5, 311-pound defensive tackle in his fourth season out of Oklahoma State, came up with two sacks against the Redskins in the 2004 season finale at FedExField. Washington won, 21-18.

In his first three years in the league, Kevin Williams registered 26 sacks. Only Alan Page, with 28.5 sacks between 1967 and 1969, had more sacks by a Viking in his first three NFL seasons.

The challenge for Rabach and the Redskins' offensive line, therefore, will be to find a way to slow down the Minnesota defensive front seven headed by Kevin Williams.

Much has been spoken and written about the potential of the Redskins' offensive line for 2006. That group starts off with a stiff challenge.

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