Generally, Patton Looks Good in Bid to Retain Redskins Job

Article excerpt

If any Washington Redskins starter entered the offseason not knowing if he would have his job come July, it was Joe Patton.

After all, the 6-foot-5, 296-pound Patton was the Redskins' left offensive tackle in 1995 only because three-time Pro Bowl pick Jim Lachey went out for the year with a torn rotator cuff Sept. 17. And the club still thinks he might belong at guard, where he played for Division II Alabama A&M.

"I want to be the left tackle here for 10 years, but I didn't go into the offseason thinking it was my job," said Patton, 24. "I assumed they would bring someone in to challenge me, whether it was Jim, [Detroit's] Lomas Brown, [the New York Giants'] Jumbo Elliott, that kid from UCLA [Outland Trophy winner Jonathan Ogden] or some kid from a Division III school."

Patton did a respectable job last season considering that he had played just 14 career snaps in the NFL before suddenly being asked to protect quarterbacks Gus Frerotte and Heath Shuler from blindside hits. Patton helped the Redskins climb from 24th in rushing in 1994 to seventh although their sacks allowed jumped from 21 to 36.

The oft-injured Lachey might give it one more try next year, and the free-agent market was full of proven tackles until recently. But when the best young ones, Atlanta's Bob Whitfield and Buffalo's John Fina, re-signed and Washington didn't pursue older players, Patton's status solidified.

"Barring Jimmy coming back, Joe's our left tackle," offensive line coach Jim Hanifan said. "He's got the size and the quickness, but what I liked best last year was Joe's determination. He never buckled under the pressure of playing the toughest position on the line."

Patton's ascension to regular Hogdom hasn't gone to his head. He hasn't treated himself to a sports car or a European vacation. This is a man who fretted all week after Mike Strahan of the Giants beat him and knocked Frerotte cold last October. …