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Jets' O-line faces big test against Redskins

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)

(Eds: Updates with quotes, details. With AP Photos.)By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.AP Sports Writer

Matt Slauson used to see Adam Carriker in his sleep.

Back in their days together at Nebraska, the two would go up against each other in practice for some big-time battles that stuck with Slauson long after the hitting was over.

''That guy haunted my dreams for three years,'' the New York Jets guard said of Carriker. ''You line him up at a 4-3 defensive end spot and me at tackle? It was scary. He was a freak there.''

Slauson is hoping for a nightmare-free Sunday when the Jets (6-5) take on Carriker and the Washington Redskins' sack-happy defense.

''They have a really capable front,'' Slauson said. ''But, we've blocked better fronts.''

Whoa.

Maybe so, but Washington will certainly be a handful for New York, and Slauson knows it. The Redskins are tied for third in the NFL with 33 sacks, ranked behind only Houston (35) and Baltimore (38), and they've done it from all different directions.

Rookie outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan leads the way for the Redskins with 6 1/2 sacks, while fellow outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has six. Carriker has five from his left defensive end spot, with right defensive end Stephen Bowen adding 4 1/2.

''Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves,'' Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. ''They're around the quarterback even more than that. So, we've got some things in place that we do, we're trying to just move some guys around and kind of monitor where they are, but when you play a 3-4 defense like that, it's tough sometimes because they're on the edges, they're outside, they can get as wide as they want, and do things like that.''

Luckily for Slauson, he probably won't see much of Carriker this time around. Slauson, the Jets' left guard after playing mostly right guard and tackle in college, will likely see plenty of Bowen and nose tackle Barry Cofield, who has two sacks of his own.

''They're a good group,'' Schottenheimer said. ''We'll have to be on our best with protections, but we'll keep it multiple and try to keep them off balance.''

Just as they did last week against Buffalo, when they didn't allow the Bills to sack Mark Sanchez. It was the first time this season that the Jets kept their quarterback from hitting the turf.

It has been a rough year for the five guys usually recognized as one of the league's best units and a major strength of the team. Center Nick Mangold was sidelined a few games with a badly sprained ankle, right guard Brandon Moore entered the season still recovering from offseason hip surgery and right tackle Wayne Hunter struggled mightily at times to replace the retired Damien Woody. Last week's performance was certainly a step in the right direction, though, and gives Rex Ryan confidence the Jets' line won't be an issue anymore.

''I think that's going to be a great battle,'' Ryan said of going up against Washington's pass rushers. ''Clearly, we can't hold the ball long. We're going to have to throw the ball on time because those guys can really rush. Again, I feel good about it.''

The Jets have been using fullback John Conner more often to block, as well as keeping tight ends on the field. That's buying Sanchez more time to throw - something that was sorely lacking early this season.

''Everybody's meshing really well right now and we're playing at a high level as a unit,'' Slauson said. ''We're all really confident right now. Our running game has been going, and our protection was good. It's a really good spot to build on and continue as a unit.''

John Madden even selected the Jets as this week's winner of his Madden Protectors Award, given to the league's top offensive line. Such praise seemed unlikely as recently as a few weeks ago when New York gave up three sacks at Denver and five against New England.

''You know, week in and week out, we always face top defenders and some guys you know and some you don't,'' left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. ''It's just our job to stop them. We'll be ready.''

A good performance against the Redskins would certainly do a lot to boost the confidence of an offensive line that will need to be solid down the stretch as the Jets make a playoff run.

''We had a good game, but we aren't going to rest on that,'' Slauson said. ''We feel like we need to have that kind of performance every week.''

Tagged: Adam Carriker, Matt Slauson, Ryan Kerrigan, Jets, Redskins

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