The Washington Redskins bounced back in 2007 with nine wins after a difficult 2006 season. The improvement was mainly due to the defense that was one of the worst in 2006 but was one of the ten best in the NFL in 2007. The offense had to deal with a lot of injuries on the line and allowed 29 sacks, ten more than the previous year while the rushing offense went from one of the best in the league to below average.
At left tackle the Redskins can count on one of the best in the NFL in Chris Samuels. Samuels was the third overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft and has only missed four starts with the Redskins since being drafted. At 6’5” and 310 lbs, he is a punishing blocker in the running game and has vastly improved his lateral mobility. Samuels is one of the best run blocking left tackles in the NFL and is still above average in pass protection. He has not shown any signs of slowing down even though he will be 31 years old at the start of the season and is the main reason why this offensive line did not totally collapse last season. Samuels has been named to a total of five Pro Bowl teams including the last three years and should continue to perform at a high level for a few more years. On the right side, the Redskins hope to have Jon Jansen return as the starter after he suffered a season-ending leg injury in the first week of the 2007 season. When healthy, Jansen is very dangerous as a run blocker because of his strength and good technique. The problem with Jansen is that he has never been very athletic and now at 32 years old and coming off a leg injury his feet are likely to slow down even more. It remains to be seen if Jansen can still offer adequate protection in the passing game but he is still a very good run blocker. Competing with Jansen for the right tackle job will be Stephon Heyer. Heyer was signed as an undrafted free agent last season and became the starter on the right side when both Jansen and Wade went down with injuries. He has very nice size for a tackle at 6’6” and 320 lbs but the Redskins averaged only 3.4 yards per carry in the five games he started. He still has to improve his technique and find a way to make up for his slower feet in pass protection but overall he showed some promise as a rookie. He should continue to improve as he gains experience and will look much better with a better guard on his left. The 31 year old Todd Wade will also provide depth at tackle. Wade has had injury problems for the past four seasons and cannot be relied upon for an extended period of time. He is still a decent backup with pretty good run blocking skills but he is limited to the right tackle position.
Pete Kendall will return as the starting left guard for the second consecutive season with the Redskins. Kendall was a Seahawks first round pick in 1996 and has since started with four different teams. Kendall will be 35 years old when the season begins so he is starting to slow down but his excellent technique and awareness are allowing him to extend his career. Kendall was brought in a few weeks before the season began in a trade with the New York Jets and did a good job considering the circumstances. He is an effective run blocker but lacks strength at only 280 lbs. If he can stay healthy, Kendall should improve this season with a full off-season to learn the offense. Starting on the right side will be the 32 year old Randy Thomas who suffered a triceps injury last season which kept him out for most of the year. Thomas is a very good run blocker at 6’5” and 320 lbs and can do a pretty good job in pass protection as well. His health is a concern but he is definitely an asset for this line if he stays healthy and his absence is the main reason why the running game took a big hit last season. The 33 year old Jason Fabini provides depth at guard and is a pretty good backup because of his versatility to play most positions on the line. Fabini played in 13 games last season in replacement of Randy Thomas at right guard but he is starting to slow down and struggled in both pass and run blocking last season. He could still be a decent backup for a few games a year but does not have the physical abilities to play 13 games like he did last season. The Redskins added a little youth to the line by selecting Chad Rinehart in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Rinehart is strong and smart but may take some time to adjust to the NFL game coming from a small school. His footwork and athleticism needs to be improved to pull to the outside but he is very effective when run blocking inside. Rinehart will probably not be ready to come in this year but could be Kendall’s replacement at left guard next season.
Starting at center for the fourth consecutive season will be the 30 year old Casey Rabach. Rabach was signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Ravens and has only missed one start in the last four seasons. He has adequate size for a center at 295 lbs and he has excellent awareness. His importance on the line was shown when he missed the week 7 game last season against the Cardinals and the Redskins averaged only 2.6 yards per carry. The absence of Thomas last year made Rabach much more vulnerable but he should look better this year.
The Redskins line had to deal with injuries to its two starters on the right side of the line for most of the season and yet did a pretty good job. The problem with this line is that all five starters and two of the backups are over 30 years old and the average age of the starters will be 32 years old when the season begins. For the past few seasons, injuries have been a concern for this line and unfortunately will likely continue to be one this season. The good news is that things could not be much worse than last year because the two best run blockers on this line in Thomas and Jansen missed almost the entire season. The Redskins have pretty good depth with Heyer, Wade, Rinehart and Fabini and will be fine as long as Samuels stays healthy. Overall the line should improve in run blocking, especially if Jansen is the starter at right tackle but could take a small hit in pass protection with the veterans starting to lose some mobility.