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Redskins' offensive line holding steady

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Redskins' offensive line holding steady

In the preseason, it appeared that a banged up and unproven line might hold back a potentially explosive Redskins’ offense.

But Kory Lichtensteiger returned from a second knee surgery, Chris Chester’s ankle sprain turned out to be minor, and most important, reserve Tyler Polumbus proved to be an adequate replacement for the injured Jammal Brown.

While it might be a stretch to call the Redskins’ offensive line one of the team’s strengths, the unit certainly has performed much better than anticipated through the season's first six games.

“Overall, I’ve been happy with our guys,” Coach Mike Shanahan said this week. “They are starting to feel very comfortable with the system. They know what they are doing and it shows on the field.”

Quarterback Robert Griffin III has been sacked 12 times, a lower total that 17 other starters and has been hit an average of 5.8 times per game. Some of that, of course, is Griffin’s elusiveness. Some of it, though, is the result of an offensive line that’s in sync and doing an effective job in pass protection.

For comparison’s sake, Arizona’s Kevin Kolb has been sacked 27 times, while Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 23 times. 

The statistics also show Washington’s Trent Williams-led offensive line has been effective in run blocking.

The Redskins rank second in the NFL in rushing yards with 996. Rookie running back Alfred Morris leads the way with 538, while Griffin has amassed 379, the most among quarterbacks.

The unit has, however, seen its share of struggles from time to time. Against the Bengals, for example, Griffin was sacked six times for a total loss of 53 yards and contacted 13 other times while passing. In that game, Williams suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and his replacement, Jordan Black, was not sharp.

That game was the line's low point. Sunday's triumph over the Vikings' top-tier defense, meantime, marked its best effort.

Griffin was sacked just once and hit while passing only three times. The team also rushed for 183 yards, a total highlighted by Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That play began with center Will Montgomery and guards Lichtensteiger and Chester opening a gaping hole for Griffin at the line of scrimmage.

Asked about the line’s unexpected improvement, Shanahan singled out three keys: health, chemistry and Polumbus’ emergence. Polumbus, a 6 foot 8, 305-pound tackle, was signed last November as a depth player. But he won the starting right tackle job in training camp, replacing Brown, who remains on the physically unable to perform list with a hip condition.

“There were a number of people that worried about our offensive line,” Shanahan said. “We have stayed fairly healthy, which is always a big advantage. The offensive line is a group of people working together as a unit. Everybody’s got a piece of the puzzle.”

He added: “The big addition has been Tyler Polumbus. He’s come in and he’s done a good job of picking up the system very quickly. Hopefully, he’ll keep on improving.”

On the other side of the line, Williams is quietly putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season, a bid underscored by his standout performance against Jared Allen last week. Allen recorded a sack late in the game, but the Vikings’ star defensive end beat tight end Logan Paulsen on that play, not Williams.

“I don’t even like watching my rookie year film, because it’s not me,” Williams asked about his progress. “ It’s basically two different players at this point. Last year, I improved a lot. But even that player last year is not the player you see now. It’s experience.”

Williams also knows the line’s biggest challenge awaits Sunday at the Meadowlands. In addition to Jason Pierre Paul, the Redskins must contend with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, among others. 

“They have the best front four the league has to offer,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge.”

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Updating Redskins' injury list after loss to Cardinals

Updating Redskins' injury list after loss to Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ—The Redskins went into today’s game against the Cardinals somewhat banged up and they exit with a couple of additional injury concerns in the form of concussions.

Center Spencer Long left the game in the second quarter. Initially it was announced that he had been evaluated for a concussion but that he had been cleared. But after halftime the word came down that he had been retested and it was determined that he does have a concussion. Long has entered the concussion protocol.

Veteran John Sullivan, picked up earlier this season when Kory Lichtensteiger went on injured reserve, filled in a center the rest of the way. He is a capable fill-in but if Long is out he would be the only available center. The Redskins might have to sign a center if it looks like Long will be out of action against the Eagles.

In the fourth quarter safety Will Blackmon left the game. According to Redskins coach Jay Gruden he was being evaluated for a concussion and a stinger. His exact status is unknown. Gruden will give more information during a conference call with reporters on Monday.

[MORE: JOSH NORMAN ON HIS CRUCIAL FOURTH-QUARTER PENALTY]

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Josh Norman on his crucial fourth-quarter penalty vs. Larry Fitzgerald

Josh Norman on his crucial fourth-quarter penalty vs. Larry Fitzgerald

GLENDALE, AZ—The Redskins had a couple of chances to stop what would eventually turn into the Cardinals’ game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter. The first one came when they went for it on fourth and one at their own 34. It was a gutsy call by Arizona coach Bruce Arians and David Johnson make him look smart by popping off a 14-yard run.

The Cards earned that one. But it looked as though they got something of a gift a few plays later when Josh Norman was flagged holding receiver Larry Fitzgerald. It was a borderline call, granting Arizona a gift third and five conversion. Two plays later Carson Palmer went in for the kill, throwing a 42-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Nelson.

On the field, Norman seemed to be none too pleased with the penalty flag. He said after the game that he thinks that Fitzgerald may have stolen a flag.

“He [Fitzgerald] was within five yards. Larry is a wily vet,” said Norman. “I'd been doing it all game, kind of . . . He breaks out and I go for the ball and the flag got thrown. We'd like to see that not happen in that situation because there was some good position, some good leverage. And a flag came out.

“It is what it is. You can't blame a call on that, blame a call on this. It's whatever, man.”

Norman is right. The Redskins blew plenty of chances to take control of the game and the blame can be spread around on both sides of the ball. But the flag will loom large as the Redskins try to shake off this loss and get ready for the Eagles next week.

[MORE: ANGRY JAY GRUDEN SAYS REDSKINS 'NOT EVEN CLOSE' TO THINKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS]