Bridges' Injury Keeps Focus on O Line
It seems all I do is write about the offensive line, so I was determined to focus on something other than that unit in today's intrasquad scrimmage at Redskins Park. Then starting right tackle Jeremy Bridges sprained his right ankle and, well, news trumps all.
On a play on which cornerback Justin Tryon intercepted one of quarterback Jason Campbell's passes, someone fell on Bridges's ankle while he attempted to finish a block. He limped to the sideline under his own power, watched the remainder of the scrimmage seated on an ice chest and limped to the locker room.
Bridges started at right tackle because Stephon Heyer recently injured his knee. And on the other side, Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, the team's top lineman, had fluid drained from his knee the other day, Coach Jim Zorn said. Bridges described his injury as only a "mild sprain," and Heyer is expected to participate fully in practice Sunday. But the unit's injury concerns and performance in pass protection continue to be the Skins' biggest front-burner issues as they shift their focus to facing the Baltimore Ravens in the preseason opener Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium.
The defensive line has dominated the offensive line throughout camp and did again today even without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in the lineup. Rookie defensive end/strong-side linebacker Brian Orakpo was rarely blocked effectively. The former University of Texas All-American might have had multiple sacks in the 62-play scrimmage if the defense had been permitted to hit the quarterbacks.
"So much of what we do as an offense is about timing, and especially for the offensive line," Campbell said. "You need those guys to be out there getting those reps together and getting their rhythm, but you can't do that with guys out. Hopefully, we're going to start getting some guys back because it has been kind of a tough situation."
Tackle Scott Burley briefly replaced Bridges. Burley experienced "cramps," Zorn said, and then the Skins moved right guard Chad Rinehart to tackle. Rinehart, who started at guard because Randy Thomas has experienced knee soreness, is listed as a guard-tackle, but he struggled at tackle in the 2008 preseason and lost his confidence. It seems the Redskins should drop the tackle designation before his name, considering he again appeared shaky at that spot.
Defensive end Rob Jackson, and others, appeared to win several individual battles against Rinehart. Maybe it will look different on the tape to Skins coaches, but Rinehart still seems to have trouble with edge rushers. Although line coach Joe Bugel recently said he would be comfortable if Rinehart had to start the season opener Sept. 13 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, I still think Thomas would be a better option even at less than 100 percent.
"The guys that stayed out [of the scrimmage], we're going to try to get them kind of geared up," Zorn said. "We've got to have reps."
In addition to Orakpo, tackle-end Lorenzo Alexander was among the long list of defensive players who were regularly in the backfield. Alexander appeared fully recovered from a minor sprained ankle that slowed him earlier in the week. He would have had several sacks as well if not for the format.
"It's really tough to judge our [offensive] line right now," Alexander said. "When you have guys out, it just makes it real hard on everybody, and we [the defensive line] think we've got a good group of guys. You just have to give it time."
Well, I've heard that a lot lately. Look, I'm not a gloom-and-doom guy. In fact, I've often been told I have a cheery disposition. And barring major injuries, there is no reason for NFL fans to be alarmed about their teams on Aug. 8. Not enough has happened.
On the other hand, when you consider that poor pass protection played the biggest role in last season's 2-6 second-half collapse, that quarterback Jason Campbell had the league's fourth-highest sack total and that Heyer, the team's best option at right tackle, is unproven, continued scrutiny sure seems appropriate to me.
"We need to get everyone back so we can see where we are," Campbell said. "It's important. It's real important."
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