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O-Line a Driving Force In Offense's Success


The Redskins' offensive line has had catchy nicknames through the years.

The 1980s group was famously referred to as "The Hogs. Earlier this decade, the group was called "The Dirtbags."

This week, head coach Jim Zorn got into the act when he referred to his offensive linemen as a bunch of "Salty Dogs."

No matter what they're called, the Redskins' offensive line has been a dominant force through the first seven games of the season.

Washington's ground game ranks third in the NFL with 158.1 yards per game.

Running back Clinton Portis, who leads the league with 818 rushing yards, is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and his primary backup, Ladell Betts, is averaging 4.1 yards every time he touches the ball.

"They have a toughness about themselves," Zorn said of his offensive linemen. "They love to run the ball. They communicate very well and they work together as a unit."

Said right tackle Jon Jansen: "We have a lot more confidence in what we are doing right now."

The Redskins have put up these rushing numbers against some of the best run defenses in the NFL.

Five of Washington's opponents are currently ranked among the top 16 rush defenses in the NFL.

Last Sunday, the Redskins relied on their ground game to defeat the Cleveland Browns 14-11 at FedExField.

Portis rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the game.

He found plenty of success running to the left behind Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels and guard Pete Kendall and to the right behind Jansen and guard Randy Thomas.

Up the middle, center Casey Rabach dealt with 350-pound defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

Zorn called Rabach's performance a heroic effort.

"We got beat a couple times, but Casey held his own," Zorn said. "To be able to block such a physical player, I tip my hat to what Casey did."

The offensive line's best game may have been in the 23-17 win against Philadelphia on Oct. 5. The offense put up 203 yards against an Eagles defense that was ranked first against the run.

"[The Redskins' offensive line did] nothing fancy," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said after that game. "They blocked us. We couldn't get off blocks...A lot of times we had an eight-man front and we didn't do a good job with it."

Joe Bugel's group isn't looking for praise, though.

"We couldn't do the things that we do if our defense was giving up 42 points a game," Kendall said. "We couldn't do the things we do if Jason Campbell can't get the ball to Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, or Chris Cooley.

"It really does come back to a balance--not just run versus pass--but team-wide and how we played on special teams and defense."

Added Jansen: "There are times when there are big holes and there are times when there is not much of a hole and Clinton is making a great cut, making a great move, and making us look good.

"That's why they call it a team game. Sometimes we make [Portis] look good, sometimes he makes us look good. All we care about is, in the end, is winning the game."

Kendall points to the continuity on the offensive line as a reason for their performance.

"Any offensive line--any group really--benefits from having as many reps together as you possibly can," Kendall said.

Kendall believes it is important for linemen to have a trust that each person is going to see the same thing when looking at the defense.

Communication at the line of scrimmage is vital, but sometimes it is up to each player to assess the defense and be on the same page as his teammates.

Their steady approach has paid big dividends so far this season.

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