Q&A With: Kim Helton

The Redskins line has two of the best young tackles in the NFL and some of the biggest question marks at guard. The man who must make that combination produce is veteran line coach Kim Helton. Here's what he thinks of the Redskins' line after two minicamps.

Q: What did you think of your young linemen after watching them in minicamp?

A: They all have shown the ability to learn the plays and gave good effort. But in the NFL you're not evaluated by the fact that you can learn the names of the play or how much effort you give. You have to block people to stay in this league. That can only occur when we're in pads. Any evaluation I have right now is premature. The only thing I can say is that they're all willing and seem to have the mental capacity to know the plays.

Q: Is it hard to temper any enthusiasm?

A: Sure, I'm only human. I'll make value judgments. Every time you see something you either like it or dislike it. It's hard not to watch a guy do anything and not place some value judgment on it for a person who is very concerned. Some guys, yeah they jumped out and impressed me. But you can't get carried away and say, 'He's the guy.' Let's not cut anybody today until we get somebody.

Q: What do you project Reggie Coleman as?

A: In this league, you only get eight or nine guys along the line. Now, Jon Jansen only has to do one thing. It's nice that he could move inside and do something else if he had to. Everyone else, other than Jansen or Samuels, we know what they play. All those other guys need a second position. Reggie being an example. Can he make this team just being a tackle? The answer is yes. Will he have a better chance of making it if he proves he has the capacity to be tackle or guard? Yes to that, too.

Q: The focus is on the interior of the line, but do the tackles make it easier for you to plug in almost anyone?

A: The obvious is that you can't play without good tackles because at some point they are isolated. Pass protection decides whether your'e a good player in this league or not. If you can't pass protect you can't win games. Tackles are like the receivers. You can't win games if the receivers can't get open. I don't care how long you block or how good a quarterback you have. The tackles have to block the ends and the pass rush. They will be out there by themselves. That way you can get a center and two guards to be three on two a lot of the time. You need to have tackles and a center. If you have two real good guards, that's just icing on the cake.

Q: Why do you want Larry Moore at center?

A: He can play either guard or center. He's a very smart guy who we're fortunate to have at center. He's extremely bright. He makes all the calls, all the protection directions. He was a key pickup for us and so far has been a pleasure to be around. He's a center unless ther are a lot of players still floating around out there. We hired him as a center but I'll put the five best out there. If we pick up a great center and he can't play guard, then I'll ask Larry to move over.

Q: What's your read on Ross Tucker and Alex Sulfsted?

A: They're all in the evaluative stage. Sometimes the guys you haven't seen, you think, 'Boy, they're real good.' Because you haven't seen them go through some of the complexes. It's easy to jump up and down and say, 'Oh, man we've got Reggie Coleman.' But those are the same comments everyone made about Tucker and Sulfsted before. When we go to camp there will be some tough decisions to make. It looks to me like some of those young people are close. The ones who play two positions or do right things in key situations, those will be the ones who get to today. But you can't pick the team in shorts. I can't tell anything other than, yes this guy does a nice job with his stance, his step angles and assignments. The effort is a given.

Q: Do you have to get a left guard?

A: Have to is a strong word. I'm a firm believer that what happens to you is, you take the guys you've got and they're your team. If someone new shows up with more talent, then we'll go through that process of moving a guy up or cut him. Everybody would like to have what they think is a better player. We'll see. I've been in this business a long time and seen a lot of great linemen. I've been blessed to coach the best people in this league and coached against some who weren't the best. You can't always have five All-Pros. You've got to count your blessings. The two tackles already are a line coach's dream.

How selfish do you want to get? Would I like to have Steve Wisniewski reincarnated coming out again? Yeah. But at the same time you can't say a guy's not going to become a great player. There are too many examples. Joe Jacoby comes in and plays a lifetime of good football. You can't tell why they'll be a good player until a guy is in the game. They're scared to death until he proves it. But once he does he locks his position down.

I hate to underestimate the value of what we have. At the same time it's a business of having a good player. I know everyone has an opinion that we'll have to have a lineman, but no one wants it more than me. One year the Oilers were so talented with Munchak and Matthews and Steinkuhler. You just gave them the names of the plays, hugged them on the neck, patted them on the butt and said, 'Sic 'em.' That doesn't happen every year. With the Raiders one year it was Wisniewski and Mosebar and everybody else you're out there doing everything you could to help them. Somewhere in between is where we are.

Q: I guess that's why you make a few dollars doing this?

A: That's why they pay you or fire you. We're firm in the middle with Larry Moore and firm at the two takcles. Rod Jones is an athletic guy. He's a big heavy man at the guard. Can he make the transition from tackle to guard? I sure hope so. If he does, that's great. We'll be solid in there. If not, then we'll have a third tackle. David Loverne comes in from the Jets. Is he the guy or not the guy? I don't know. We'll get him in camp and we'll find out in a hurry.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers.

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