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Other Offensive Linemen Have Confidence In Trent Williams

Posted by Matt Terl on September 10, 2010 – 2:20 pm

Redskins rookie Trent Williams is pretty philosophical about the fact that his first regular season blocking assignment will likely come against Cowboys four-time Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware.”It would be easier to start off with someone not as good,” Williams said, “but it sets the stage.”

More than that, though, it can set the tone for the rest of his season — or longer. The offensive linemen I talked to all remembered the first big-name guy they lined up across from, and they all said they learned from the experience.

“My first game was against Carolina,” Jammal Brown said. “Julius Peppers. We went out there and won. No sacks, no pressures.”

“It was Jason Taylor,” Stephon Heyer said. “We ended up winning that game, I ended up doing pretty good.”

Artis Hicks also faced off against Taylor early in his career. “He was still in his prime in Miami,” Hicks said. “He was coming off another Pro Bowl year, a high digit sack number, and there I was, a young guy. I just remember thinking, Man! y’know? This is the real deal.

And there’s something to be gained from knowing you can compete in that real deal. Read more »

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Play Of The Morning Practice: Darrel Young's Block

Posted by Matt Terl on July 31, 2010 – 12:32 pm

There were a few nice plays in an intense morning practice session — some good throws, especially by Donovan McNabb; a less-good McNabb pass that was intercepted by DeAngelo Hall and taken back for six; a solid performance kicking FGs by Graham Gano — but the play of the day for me was made by a guy who didn’t even have the ball in his hands.

Darrel Young was in training camp with the Redskins last year as a linebacker, but he’s now been switched back to his college position of running back. (“Right now I’m playing basically fullback,” he says, “but starting next week I’ll be playing a little running back just from the pass protect game, kinda like a little Leonard Weaver style.”)

On the play in question, he was working as the blocking fullback, coming to the right side of the second-string line next to Stephon Heyer and guard Chad Rinehart. As the ball carrier made his cut, Young locked in on cornerback Kevin Barnes coming in to stop the run, and flat-out leveled him. “I just hit him ’cause he showed up,” Young told me after practice. “He’s still not talking to me, probably.”

Despite Young’s matter-of-fact description, the play was notable. “I didn’t see the hit,” Rinehart said, “but I heard it.”

Read more »

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Chris Foerster's Approach To Coaching

Posted by Matt Terl on June 3, 2010 – 12:51 pm

New offensive line coach Chris Foerster is a very different kind of coach from his predecessor, Joe Bugel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It seems unfair to Foerster to mention them both in the lede, in fact, but it’s a comparison he’s been facing literally since he arrived at Redskins Park. Bugel is a legend in D.C., and the Redskins have perhaps the strongest tradition of rooting for their offensive line of any team in the NFL.

Following a legend is a difficult task, to say the least, so maybe it’s best that Foerster takes such a different approach. Bugel was a yeller, a curser, an old-school guy who called violence his turn-on and wanted things done his way all the time, every time. Foerster characterizes his own coaching style in just SLIGHTLY different terms.

“I’m a teacher first,” he says. “I’m gonna teach the guys how to play the position. I’m gonna give them what they need. I’m very much about meeting each guy where he is individually. I’m gonna try as best I can to get to know each guy, try as best I can to find out what makes him tick, where their strengths and weaknesses are, and I believe in developing a foundation and relationship with the player and trying to reach them where they are.”

He continues, “More than anything, I want to develop a trust with my players. A trust that they can believe what I tell ’em, and that what I have to say will give them a chance to succeed. And hopefully in that process, I can get them to maximize their abilities, and in that we can have a good offensive line, a good offense, and win some games.”

Now, you never know if a guy’s actual coaching style (or teaching style or managing style, for that matter) actually comes across the way he thinks it does. So I asked a few of Foerster’s players about his style, especially where it contrasted with Bugel’s. The answers were … consistent, to say the least, often down to word choice.

Here, look:
Read more »

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Friday, December 11: Stephon Heyer Discusses Letting His Inner Turtle Glow

Posted by Matt Terl on December 11, 2009 – 10:07 am

Yesterday, Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog spotlighted this year’s University of Maryland Happy Holidays video, which features various Maryland alumni tossing around an illuminated terrapin under a a catchy Fountains-of-Wayne-esque little ditty about letting your inner turtle glow. (The actual meaning of letting one’s inner turtle glow is left deliberately vague, but it seems to have something to do with holiday cheer and … socks, maybe. I don’t know. Catchy tune, though.)

Anyhow, one of the proud ex-Terps who is letting his inner turtle glow is none of than Washington Redskins right tackle Stephon Heyer, so I caught up with Heyer and asked him about his inner turtle. Read more »

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Monday, November 30: Edwin Williams Reflects On His First Pro Start

Posted by Matt Terl on November 30, 2009 – 2:02 pm

This hasn’t been the greatest start to a week in Redskins history. To compound yesterday’s loss — which was disheartening enough in itself — came the news that rookie defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon suffered an ACL tear and is joining the growing list of players on injured reserve. And — later — that Chris Cooley has joined that list as well.

(The only guys who could be remotely happy today would be Alvin “Ace” Bowen, the Compliance Linebacker, who is expected to be signed to Jarmon’s spot on the active roster, and defensive end Rob Jackson, who takes Cooley’s spot.)

One guy who might have been happy is offensive lineman Edwin Williams. He’s the undrafted rookie out of Maryland who got his first NFL start yesterday, which is a pretty big deal. And to look at the stats and see that Jason Campbell was only sacked once, you might think that the offensive line had a good day today. Unfortunately, that number is more a testament to Campbell’s underrated elusiveness than to the offensive line keeping him clean.

“I thought Edwin did … okay,” head coach Jim Zorn said during his press conference today, and that ellipsis indicates a hesitation on his part, not missing words. He didn’t sound thrilled, to be honest, and immediately turned to discussing the possibility of Mike Williams getting the start next week against New Orleans.

This somewhat disappointing review would be hard on Edwin Williams, except that his own assessment of his performance wasn’t really much more favorable.

“I don’t know,” he told me. “I kinda felt like, by my personal standard, I didn’t play very well. Pass protection was a big issue for me. As far as going against [Eagles defensive end Mike] Patterson, and the power guys, I think I was fine. But the athletic guys, [Victor] Abiamiri and [Juqua] Parker … I just don’t think I fared well against them. They were beating me with a lot of quick inside moves, moves that I know I should’ve been prepared for [but] that I didn’t do well against.”

Even what should have been his most exciting play didn’t go the way he might’ve hoped. “The goal line play,” he said, “on Jason’s touchdown run, I was supposed to be the lead blocker. I tripped on Casey Rabach’s foot and couldn’t even get out there.”

Read more »

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Monday, November 16: When Does The Offensive Line Stop Being Makeshift

Posted by Matt Terl on November 16, 2009 – 11:24 am

For weeks now, any discussion of the Redskins offensive line has been prefaced with the word “makeshift”. Between guys being lost to injury and guys being shuttled from position to position in relief, there’s been very little continuity on a unit that — according to conventional NFL wisdom — thrives on continuity.

Of course, no one has particularly WANTED to see continuity in an offensive line that seemed at times to be actively forcing Jason Campbell to run for his life, and that Clinton Portis had been unable to run behind. But that changed yesterday, when the combination of mid-season free-agent acquisition Levi Jones, season-long starters Derrick Dockery and Casey Rabach, 2008 third-round draft pick Chad Rinehart, and roving lineman Stephon Heyer finally seemed to click.

This group managed to go through the entire game together, surrendering just three sacks (all in the second half) and opening holes for the Redskins backup running backs to rush for 174 yards against what had been the eighth-ranked rushing defense coming into the game. So I found myself asking when people could stop using the word “makeshift” to describe these guys. Read more »

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Levi Jones Is Confident, Complimentary Of Stephon Heyer

Posted by Matt Terl on November 12, 2009 – 11:19 am

Your new starting left tackle, as of this week’s latest offensive line reshuffle, is Levi Jones. Jones talked to reporters yesterday and said all the things you’d expect:

The “I’m Up To Speed” Thing:
“I mean, any time you get into any situation, and you get more repetitions at it, you get more of a look at it, and get more practice at it you’re going to feel more confident, know what I’m sayin’? It wasn’t necessarily an issue of me having confidence with myself. It was a new scheme – all the plays were different, and in this case the techniques were different. I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on all of that, so I’m going in fairly confident.”

The “My Health Problems Are Behind Me” Thing:
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I’m definitely anxious to get out there and play. Right now I’m feeling like I’m where I left off before I got injured. We’ve got a great medical staff here that’s done a wonderful job of pre-hab versus rehab, and just making sure that all of the guys are taken care of before they get out there and get injured. Most of the injuries in the league come from something being out of whack – a hip or pelvis or something like that – and they go out there and play on it and injure themselves because they weren’t in good shape to begin with before they get injured, or they’ve got some small nagging injury that’s hampering something else and hurting something else.”

The “This Week’s Opponent Is AWESOME” Thing:
“[Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil is] definitely difficult for a lot of tackles that can’t get down there and play with him, can’t bend their knees. The people you see that struggle with him the most are the taller people that he can run underneath, because the guy is 5’11”, and he’s good and he’s strong – he’s light but he’s still strong like any other defensive end. He’s a challenge for a lot of people.”

But he also added one thing that was a little unexpected. Read more »

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New Looks For Stephon Heyer and Mike Williams

Posted by Matt Terl on October 21, 2009 – 4:55 pm

When Mike Williams gets a haircut … well, it’s honestly not that worthy of note. Williams’s hair was fairly unremarkable. If you had stopped me on the street and asked me to describe it, I probably would’ve stammered a lot and said something like, “Um, it’s dark?”

But when Williams shows up to the locker room bald AND fellow offensive lineman Stephon Heyer shows up with his characteristic dreadlocks gone, at that point it start to looks more like a story. Like it’s something they’re doing out of solidarity in the face of a world turned cruel. Read more »

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Stephon Heyer Knows How To Make An Entrance

Posted by Matt Terl on September 1, 2009 – 4:23 pm

As I mentioned when the Mike Sellers incident reared its head, I was on the sidelines for pregame introductions at the game Friday night. I missed the Sellers’s troubles with the flag because he was out of sight. I did not miss Stephon Heyer‘s introduction, but I didn’t register it as particularly significant.

Here’s what I saw at the time: when the whole team jogged out ahead of individual introductions, rookie offensive lineman Scott Burley had two helmets, one of which he brandished at the sky as he ran out. Then the offense was introduced, Heyer jogged out helmetless, pointing at the stands. I figured he had given his helmet to his fellow ex-Terrapin and didn’t really follow-up on it.

When Rocky McIntosh twittered about it today, that made me officially 0-for-2 on following up on interesting pregame events. Here’s McIntosh:

I forgot did anybody happen to catch stephon heyer player intro at the beginning of da patriots game??This guts confidence is threw the roof […] No helmet , dancing wowow get it Stephon his swagger is at a all time high nobody in the locker room can talk about him

So with that in mind, I caught up with Heyer as he came off the practice field and asked why Burley had carried his helmet into the game.

“Nope,” he said. “That’s wrong.”

Read more »

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Practice – Offensive Line Doing Some Talking

Posted by Matt Terl on August 25, 2009 – 5:31 pm

Fred Smoot left practice slightly hobbled today, someone having stepped on his toe. That’s not, however, why Devin Thomas brought out the wheelchair and set it up for him. “Oh, I just thought that we beat up the defense pretty bad today,” Thomas said, “thought he might want to take a seat.” (Smoot, as you might expect, responded by rolling his eyes and calling Thomas an idiot.)

That’s not exactly how I saw things unfold — Albert Haynesworth was a dominating presence, intercepting one pass, batting down another, and collapsing the pocket more times than I could count, and plenty of other defenders made their presence felt as well, including a LaRon Landry interception — but the offense does seem to be putting things together, and quickly.

Jason Campbell had one of the most accurate practices I’ve seen from him, for example, and you have to believe that the improved play of the offensive line is one of the reasons why.

Here’s Joe Bugel, talking to the media earlier today about his starters. “First team’s been really good,” he said. “They’re molding together. They’ve got great chemistry. If we can keep that bunch healthy, I think we’ll have a very, very good offensive line. That group is communicating together, they have a great respect for each other, and I’m real proud of them.” Read more »

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