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A question for football fans

The Washington Redskins have a situation with their offensive line that to me raises an interesting question. The situation, probably not unique to the Redskins, is this: our starting right tackle, veteran Jon Jansen, is considered an excellent run-blocker but at this stage of his career a less than stellar pass blocker. His back-up Stephon Heyer is said to be signifcantly better than Jansen in pass protection but not as strong in the running game. Heyer started at right tackle last year when Jansen was injured, but lost the job this past autumn when he himself picked up an injury.

Both are healthy now, and Jansen continues to play every down because the Redskins have run the ball so effectively this year. Pass protection has been a problem, however.

I can’t say whether the common perception of Jansen and Heyer is correct — to know how individual linemen are performing one would have to watch the game several times. But let’s assume that their comparative strengths and weaknesses are as I have described them.

In these circumstances, shouldn’t the Redskins pull Jansen in obvious passing situations? In such situations, the Redskins (like virtually all other teams) change personnel on defense, including on the defensive line. Similarly on offense, they bring in at least one extra wide-receiver. And many teams either pull their running back or bring in a different one (the Redskins tend to stay with star tailback Clinton Portis who catches the ball well and is a hellacious pass blocker). So why not bring in a different right tackle?

One answer, I suppose, is that offensive line play requires special cohesion. But, as noted, Heyer has extensive experience playing with this line. Surely he knows the schemes well enough to block the appropriate pass rusher or, if the Redskins change things up, to do his part on a screen pass or draw play.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Cleveland Browns used to rotate their guards on every play so that their innovative coach, Paul Brown, could send plays in from the sideline. The Browns offensive lines managed to perform quite cohesively. So I don’t see why platooning offensive linemen based on their relative strengths and weaknesses in light of the game situation isn’t a winning proposition.

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