Shanahan's line has been dotted with issues
When Mike Shanahan was winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles with the Broncos in the 1990s, the backbone of the team was a dependable offensive line that could endure the occasional loss of a starter.
As coach of the Redskins, Shanahan has had to do a lot more shuffling than normal, which has helped contribute to the team’s 4-8 record after a 2-0 start.
The Redskins’ line took another hit this week when left tackle Trent Williams, the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Oklahoma, was suspended for the final four games along with tight end Fred Davis for multiple failed drug tests.
After struggling as a rookie, Williams had begun to play to his lofty draft status the past four weeks.
Now, the Redskins will have to use their seventh different line combination of the season Sunday against the Patriots.
“Offensive line, normally, you don’t lose too many of them, just over the years,’’ Shanahan said. “We’ve had to shuffle them around a little more than normal.
“Sometimes it comes in bunches. Other years, you’re pretty lucky. I think everybody’s looking to keep that continuity. It never seems to happen.’’
Veteran Sean Locklear, the former Seahawk, is one option at left tackle. He has started there this season. The Redskins could turn to undrafted rookie Willie Smith, who has been the swing tackle but has yet to appear in a game.
“A lot of times when you lose a guy, that guy will come in and sometimes will play better than the starter,’’ Shanahan said. “You didn’t even know you had really a good football player until he gets the opportunity. And if not, at least you get one of the younger guys some valuable experience for the future.’’
A closer look at the Redskins:
■Quarterback: Rex Grossman, who helped lead the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, has started the past four games after being benched for another journeyman, John Beck. In his first three starts after taking back the job, Grossman completed at least 65.5 percent of his passes in losses to the Dolphins and Cowboys and a win at the Seahawks. Grossman completed just 41.3 percent in Sunday’s 34-19 loss to the Jets. He tends to hold the ball, as evidenced by his 18 sacks - nine in the past four games.
■Running back: Roy Helu, a fourth-round pick from Nebraska, has grabbed the starting job with back-to-back 100-yard games against the Seahawks and Jets. Helu (5 feet 11 inches, 219 pounds) can take a hit, but he’ll also run by defenders with his 4.42 speed in the 40. Ryan Torain hasn’t had a carry in three weeks because Helu has been so good. Mike Sellers is the occasional fullback.
■Receivers: The loss of Davis to the suspension hurts a lot. He was the team’s leading receiving with 59 catches for 796 yards and three touchdowns. Davis was outstanding after the catch. There’s still a chance he appeals the suspension. Logan Paulsen (seven catches) is the only other tight end on the roster. Two former Patriots, Jabar Gaffney (46 catches) and Donte’ Stallworth (10), will need to pick up the slack. Santana Moss missed four games because of injury and has nine catches for 71 yards in the past two games.
■Offensive line: With a Shanahan team, you always get the truest form of the zone blocking scheme, so Patriots linemen will have to watch their knees against cut blocks from the back side. Chris Chester is very good at right guard. Left guard Maurice Hurt and center Will Montgomery have their struggles. Right tackle Jammal Brown is solid.
■Defensive line: The Redskins have a good defense and it starts up from with left end Adam Carriker, nose tackle Barry Cofield, and right end Stephen Bowen. All of them can play the run and the pass in Jim Haslett’s 3-4 defense.
■Linebackers: The Redskins fly around the ball with outside linebackers Brian Orakpo (seven sacks) and rookie Ryan Kerrigan (eight). Kerrigan struggles in coverage. Veteran London Fletcher-Baker is still getting it done in the middle and leads team with 124 tackles. Perry Riley had 11 tackles against the Seahawks at right inside.
■Secondary: Strong safety Reed Doughty plays the run extremely well. He’s third on the team with 59 tackles. The other safety, O.J. Atogwe, came over from the Rams as a free agent and has 44 tackles. Left cornerback DeAngelo Hall is tough in coverage. Right cornerback Josh Wilson was picked on when he was with the Seahawks.