It’s the O-Line, Stupid

Through Sunday, the Redskins have allowed 14 sacks, good for 25th fewest in the NFL.  This comes after finishing 22nd last year while allowing 38 sacks.  A far cry from the days of the Hogs in the 1980s and even 1991, when QB Mark Rypien was only sacked seven times (the team allowed nine sacks during the regular season) en route to a Lomardi Trophy.  Consider that line:

-LT Jim Lachey: 3 Pro Bowls

-LG Raleigh McKenzie: 70 Greatest Redskins

-C Jeff Bostic: 70 Greatest Redskins

-RG Mark Schlereth: 2 Pro Bowls

-RT Joe Jacoby: 70 Greatest Redskins, NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, 4 Pro Bowls

-Reserve Russ Grimm: 70 Greatest Redskins, NFL 1980s All- Decade Team, 4 Pro Bowls

-Reserve Ray Brown: 1 Pro Bowl

-Reserve Ed Simmons: 70 Greatest Redskins

Because of these men and other Hogs among the 70 Greatest Redskins like Mark May & George Starke, the importance of talent along the offensive line is understood among the Washington faithful and those who cover the team.  Understood within the front office?  Perhaps not.  In January the WP Jasons documented that while ‘the team up the road in Baltimore’ has “invested six picks (all in the fifth round or higher, including Gaither) on offensive linemen between 2005 and 2007” who all went on to start games, the Redskins picked zero during that span.  In fact, the Dan/Vin braintrust has sleected just one O-linemen since 2004 (G Chad Rinehart in 2008) and just two in the top four rounds (Rinehart & G Derrick Dockery in 2003) since taking over

After standing out as the team’s the biggest concern over the second half of 2008, fans & media clamored for improvements, upgrades, or simply additioanl experiecned warm bodies for this year’s O-line all offseason.  The result…

-LT: 6-time Pro Bowl selection Chris Samuels (32 years old) played seemingly well before going down with an injury last week; replaced by D’Anthony Batiste (27, 4 carer starts); undrafted Stephone Heyer (25, 17 starts) will start going forward

-LG: Pete Kendall (36) is out of the league; Dockery (29) is back & overpaid after two years in Buffalo and appears to be playing well

-C: Casey Rabach (32) remains steady, although slightly overpaid

-RG: Randy Thomas (33) went down in Week 2; replaced by Will Montgomery (27, 6 previous starts), Reinhart (24, 0 previous snaps), and Mike Williams (29, three years out of the league)

-RT: 33-year-old former Pro Bowler John Jansen is in Detroit; Heyer played marginally through the first five games; Williams will start here going forward

The story is clear and the strugles of this unit have been well-documented, but stats paint an even clear picture:

-Since 2001, Washington has finished higher than 15th in fewest sacks allowed just three times – in consecutive seasons during Gibbs II from 2005-2007.  In two of those seasons the team had a winning record and made the playoffs.

-From 1982-present, the franchise has finished above 15th in this stat 17 times.  In 13 of those 17 seasons (76%) the end result was a winning record, including 10 playoff appearances and two Super Bowl, three NFC, and five NFC East championships.

-Only twice since 1982 has Washington finished with a winning record when not in the top 14 in fewest sacks allowed.

(click to enlarge)

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