In 2008, Washington struggled in pass protection down the stretch and it was a big reason for the team's 2-6 finish.
This Sunday, the Redskins' pass protection unit faces an immediate test in their season opener when they take on the New York Giants at the Meadowlands.
Last year, the Giants posted 42 sacks, sixth-most in the NFL. The group was led by Justin Tuck, who had 12 sacks. They become even more dangerous with the return of Osi Umenyiora, the team's sack leader from the previous four seasons.
Meantime, Jason Campbell was sacked 38 times last year, 23rd most in the league.
Most of the sacks came in the second half of the season: seven by the Steelers on Nov. 3, three by the Cowboys on Nov. 16 and four by the Giants on Nov. 30.
The Redskins hope that good health and one new addition fortifies the offensive line.
Derrick Dockery rejoins the Redskins after two years in Buffalo and he steps in at left guard. And Stephon Heyer has assumed the starting job at right tackle.
"I think we are healthier," Jim Zorn said. "If you look at Chris Samuels, last year he was really sore at the beginning of the year. Dockery is probably healthier than Pete [Kendall] was last year. Randy [Thomas] is healthier because he had a bunch of issues taken care of in the offseason.
"Stephon Heyer, in my mind, is that much better because of all of the experience that he had last year and in preseason. So I have to think that our offensive line, with Casey Rabach in there running it, is in a better situation than we were in last year."
Samuels, the six-time Pro Bowl left tackle, has had some classic matchups with Umenyiora, a two-time Pro Bowler himself. Umenyiora is returning after missing the entire 2008 season due to a knee injury.
In nine career games against the Redskins, Umenyiora has posted three sacks.
On the opposite side Umenyiora is Tuck, who has 4.5 career sacks in seven career games against the Redskins.
Last offseason, the Giants upgraded their front four with the addition of veteran linemen Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard.
In the last two years, the Giants also employed some "exotic blitzes," Casey Rabach said.
With Steve Spagnuolo moving on to become head coach of the St. Louis Rams, the Giants have tuned to Bill Sheridan as defensive coordinator. Sheridan was the Giants' linebackers coach from 2005-08.
Samuels is counting on the familiarity factor to help him--and the rest of the offensive line--fend off the Giants' aggressive pass rush.
"I pretty much know my opponent and I know the defense they're going to run," Samuels said. "Osi--I've been playing against him for a while. He's a talented guy. I've studied tape on him, just seeing some of the things he has been doing. Knowing what he can do is definitely going to help me."
Samuels does not expect to change his approach to Umenyiora, even though the 6-3, 261-pounder missed all of last season.
"I just have to concentrate and buckle down against him because he's an awesome football player," Samuels said. "He is definitely one of the best pass rushers in the league."
-- GIANTS' ROSS SIDELINED
Giants cornerback Aaron Ross is out for Sunday's Redskins-Giants game at the Meadowlands due to a hamstring injury.
With Ross out, the Giants are expected to turn to second-year cornerback Terrell Thomas.
The Giants also could be without cornerback Kevin Dockery, who is listed at questionable for Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.
For the Redskins, Carlos Rogers (calf) and Mike Williams (ankle) are listed as probable.
With so few injured players, Jim Zorn seemed to think it would be difficult to determine which players to deactivate on game day.
"We can choose, which is a nice problem to have," he said.
-- WYNN FROM THE OTHER SIDE
A year ago, Renaldo Wynn was a backup defensive lineman with the New York Giants and he played a part in defeating the Redskins 16-7 in the season opener.
A reporter asked Wynn if he thought the Redskins played "flat" in last year's season opener.
"I don't know, it's hard to say why a team plays that way," Wynn said. "If we were flat [last year], then I'm sure that we'll want to make sure we come out and play emotional and be ready [this year]. First game of the season, I'm sure everyone here feels like they have something to prove."
Wynn only played one season with the Giants, but he admitted it may be "a little emotional" to return to the Meadowlands.
"My last game was there and my first game this year is there," he said. "It'll be kind of surreal, a little déjà vu."
-- PRESSURE ON ZORN?
Several preseason publications have suggested that both Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell face pressure to win this season.
Zorn was asked on Monday if he felt any pressure heading into the season.
"I don't necessarily have a statement to make about the pressure part of it," Zorn replied. "We risk it all every single game. I'm more excited than feeling pressure going into the second season. I think this is what we have prepared for. And now we get to go express it all."