Center of Attention

When the Redskins looked at the interior of their line, they knew they lacked one thing: athleticism. They no longer feel that's the case, not after signing center Casey Rabach to a contract. And now their line appears set, with Rabach bumping Cory Raymer out of the starting lineup.

When the Redskins looked at the interior of their line, they knew they lacked one thing: athleticism.

They no longer feel that's the case, not after signing center Casey Rabach to a contract. And now their line appears set, with Rabach bumping Cory Raymer out of the starting lineup.

His athleticism jumped out at the Redskins. They paid close attention to his previous games at guard, focusing on his ability to pull. That's something Raymer couldn't do and it hurt them on stretch runs and zone runs.

In this era of super-quick defensive linemen, that's important.

''You'd better have a center who can pull,'' Redskins line coach Joe Bugel said, ''because of the fronts they give us. You need a real nifty guy who has size and who can lead a running back on sweeps.''

Rabach was not a fulltime starter until this past season when Mike Flynn was injured. Before then, Rabach battled for the starting right guard job. Like Raymer, he's a Wisconsin alum -- he played both positions in college.

His footwork was also honed by playing tennis and basketball while growing up.

''I grew up in a town of 10,000 people, there's not a lot to do so I played sports,'' Rabach said. ''A lot of people told me to have fun and be diversified.''

Eventually that diversity helped make him a wealthy man. But it's not just his diversity: the Redskins liked his intelligence. In their scheme, the center makes all the protection calls. They struggled at picking up certain blitzes last season.

''He's a natural fit for us,'' Gibbs said.

. . . Don't believe any stories that suggest Ray Brown has a chance to unseat Derrick Dockery at left guard. The Redskins suggested that Brown could challenge for a starting job if and when he re-signs. Naturally, speculation centered on him competing with the inconsistent Dockery.

''Derrick's right on schedule,'' Bugel said. ''Ray taking over for Dock is as far from the truth as possible.''

. . . Free agent receiver David Patten will visit Redskins Park today.


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