In keeping with a recurring theme of the season, the Washington Redskins will have to shuffle their offensive line yet again this week as they prepare to take on the New England Patriots.
With Trent Williams facing a four-game suspension, the Redskins will have a new left tackle. Coach Mike Shanahan hasn’t said who will start at that spot, but it’s believed that either eighth-year veteran Sean Locklear or rookie Willie Smith will get the nod. Regardless of who starts, it will mark the Redskins’ seventh different offensive line combination this season. (The first five changes to the offensive line came as a result of injury).
A look at the offensive line combinations the Redskins have used this season:
> LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, RT Jammal Brown
> LT Williams, LG Montgomery, C Erik Cook, RG Chester, RT Brown
> LT Sean Locklear, LG Montgomery, C Cook, RG Chester, RT Brown
> LT Williams, LG Maurice Hurt, C Montgomery, RG Chester, RT Locklear
> LT Williams, LG Hurt, C Montgomery, RG Chester, RT Brown
> LT Williams, LG Tyler Polumbus, C, Montgomery, RG Chester, RT Brown
If Smith were to start on Sunday, he would become the third left tackle used this season by Washington, which already has used four left guards, two centers and two right tackles,the most shuffling Mike Shanahan has had to do in his career as coach.
“There’s no question about that,” said Shanahan, who on his 1997 Super Bowl team started three different tackles and three different guards because of injuries over the course of the season. “Usually, offensive line, normally, you don’t lose too many of them, just over the years. We’ve had to shuffle them around [this year] a little more than normal.
“Some times it comes in bunches,” Shanahan later said. “Other years, you’re pretty lucky. I think everybody’s looking to keep that continuity. It never seems to happen. A lot of times when you lose a guy, that guy will come in and sometimes will play better than the starter. You didn’t even know you had really a good football player until he gets the opportunity. And if not, at least you get one of the younger guys some valuable experience for the future.”
Smith could be one such player. Signed as an undrafted rookie out of East Carolina, he made the 53-man roster following the preseason and has worked at both left and right tackle, but has yet to appear in a game.
Smith said that he believes he has improved significantly since the preseason because of the opportunity to go up against linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan every day in practice.
Shanahan said he agreed that Smith has made strides in practices.
“He has done a good job,” the coach said. “You never know about a young player until he goes out there and plays, but he does have a lot of athletic ability. I like his upside and you’re just hopeful that he does get the opportunity and can play at the level you think he can play at.”