Overview: In Joe Gibbs' first run with the Redskins, the
middle of the offensive line was an area of great strength, able to pound the
opposing defenders on plays such as "50 Gut" even when the other team knew what
was coming. This was not the case last year as attempts to run up the middle
were rebuffed time after time. Although the center of the field isn't where
Clinton Portis likes to run, it's nevertheless critical that play here
Depth Chart: The starters are set with Rabach at center, Randy Thomas at right guard and Derrick Dockery at left guard and it's doubtful that Ray Brown would have signed on for a 20th NFL season unless he was reasonably assured of a spot as a backup guard and tackle. Beyond that, things appear to be wide open. Cory Raymer is a veteran center and Lennie Friedman can back up at both center and guard, but both carry seven-figure salaries that may be difficult to justify for reserves.
Man to Man:
Ben Nowland (6-3, 300, Auburn, first year): A former
teammate of a couple of new Redskins at Auburn, Nowland spent much of last year
on the Redskins' practice squad and played for the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL
Europe for five games before sustaining an ankle injury. If he can rehab in
time to be 100% at training camp, he'll have a realistic, albeit slim, shot at
backing up Rabach.
Casey Rabach (6-4, 301, Wisconsin, 4 seasons): The
first move the Redskins made when free agency opened was to sign Rabach away
from the Baltimore Ravens. Although he has just 23 NFL starts under his belt,
he was considered to be one of the few sure things on the market, a player who
will anchor the middle for the next several seasons.
Cory Raymer (6-3,300, Wisconsin, 10 seasons): In his
second stint with the Redskins, Raymer started the last 14 games of the year
and impressed the Redskins so much that they gave a big contract to another,
younger former Badger center in Casey Rabach. It's not an exaggeration to say
that he'll be fighting for his NFL life this August. As a starter for much of
his career, he'll have to learn to play special teams if he is to survive.
Josh Warner (6-5, 318, SUNY Brockport, 1 season): A
major advantage that Warner has over Nowland in a fight to unseat Raymer as the
backup center is that Warner has NFL playing experience, seeing some action for
the Bears in 2003. He was among
Ray Brown (6-5, 318,
Derrick Dockery (6-6, 345,
Lennie Friedman (6-3, 283, Duke, 6 seasons): If the Redskins are going to carry just one relatively expensive veteran backup in the middle of the line, Friedman's ($800,000 cap hit for 2005) versatility may give him an edge over Raymer ($1.1 million cap hit) for a roster spot. He started the first two games of last year at center before giving way to Raymer and then backed up at guard and center.
Tyler Lenda (6-3, 289,
Randy Thomas (6-5, 306,
Man to Man: