NFL draft: Decade of ignoring O-line in draft has hurt ’Skins
By JOSEPH WHITE
AP Sports Writer
ASHBURN, Va. — It's been a decade since the Washington Redskins drafted an offensive lineman in the first or second round of the NFL draft.
The other 31 teams have all drafted at least one lineman in the top two rounds in the last six years. The closest thing to a straggler is the Oakland Raiders, who haven't taken a lineman that high since 2004.
In the 10 drafts since Dan Snyder bought the team, the Redskins have selected nearly as many quarterbacks (seven) as offensive linemen (eight).
The strategy came crashing down on the Redskins last year. An aging starting line finally wore out, and none of the backups had played so much as a down in the NFL the previous year. Jason Campbell was sacked 43 times, the rushing attack ranked 27th, and the 4-12 record was the franchise's worst since 1994.
So one of the top priorities, if not the top priority, is to rebuild the line, and it can start Thursday when they have the No. 4 overall pick in the draft. Yes, they've been scouting all the top-name quarterbacks, but even the players currently on the roster haven't been shy about stating the obvious.
"I think everyone assumes we're going to address the offensive line," tight end Chris Cooley said. "It was clearly a problem for us last year. In some way, shape or form, whether it's free agency or trade, we're obviously going to address that position."
The Redskins have already made plenty of changes.
Mike Shanahan replaced Jim Zorn as coach. Bruce Allen replaced Vinny Cerrato as the head of the front office. Snyder yielded control of the roster to the brain trust. Donovan McNabb was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles to replace Campbell, and Larry Johnson and Willie Parker have been signed to put Clinton Portis on notice at running back.
But the line is still a concern.
Receiver Santana Moss said he isn't about to tell the new bosses what to do, but he knows they're smart enough to see what happened last year.
"They did watch us play over the years," Moss said. "And they know you can't win games without an offensive line. You can't win games with your quarterback getting sacked a million times and not being able to get the ball off. You can't win games playing the way we played a lot last year."
All of which points to tackles Russell Okung (Oklahoma State) and Trent Williams (Oklahoma) as the candidates for the No. 4 pick. Or the Redskins could trade down and acquire more selections and target multiple linemen — as of now, Washington has only four picks in the entire draft and only one in the first three rounds.
Yet, despite all the signs that it would be football insanity for the Redskins not to draft a top lineman, it's not a sure bet they will go that way. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen will probably be around at No. 4, and he might be viewed by Shanahan and Allen as the ideal successor to McNabb.
"I know Bruce well enough to know that he needs his quarterback," said ESPN analyst and former coach Jon Gruden, who worked with Allen for five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "They just made a great decision in getting a guy that's not only a winning quarterback, but a guy who understands how to win in the NFC East. It might not be in the first round, but I wouldn't be surprised if they don't like someone somewhere in the draft. I don't put anything past Bruce Allen. He has a unique way of looking at things."
So maybe there's a chance the glamour position player will win out again.
If so, there's no telling who'll be blocking for him.