Redskins Line Is at a Loss Without Left Tackle Chris Samuels

Quarterback Jason Campbell goes down in the third quarter on one of Carolina's five sacks. Washington was held to 198 yards and had no plays of more than 23 yards.
Quarterback Jason Campbell goes down in the third quarter on one of Carolina's five sacks. Washington was held to 198 yards and had no plays of more than 23 yards. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 12, 2009

CHARLOTTE, Oct. 11 -- On the Washington Redskins' second play from scrimmage Sunday afternoon, Mike Williams lined his 370-pound body up at right guard, a position with which he became familiar just this past week. Williams blocked for quarterback Jason Campbell, who found running back Clinton Portis in the flat for a 10-yard touchdown pass.

For the first time since 2005, Williams was in a regular season NFL game celebrating a regular season score. And then, he turned around.

"I didn't know who was down," he said. On the ground, dazed, lay 10-year veteran Chris Samuels. On the same play, Samuels went to block Carolina defensive end Tyler Brayton. The two butted heads. Brayton kept charging. Samuels fell to the ground. His day was over, the victim of a "stinger," which sends a tingling sensation down one side of the body. As center Casey Rabach said: "That's a scary injury,"

Now, the Redskins must be downright frightened. Though Samuels's condition had improved afterward -- "I actually feel a lot better," he said -- the situation put further emphasis on the fact that no part of the team is as perilously thin as the offensive line.

The Redskins played virtually all of their 20-17 loss to the Panthers with D'Anthony Batiste -- career total of four games, none since 2007 -- in place of Samuels at left tackle. They played with Williams, a tackle by trade who hadn't played in four seasons, filling the right guard spot that became a problem when veteran Randy Thomas was lost for the season to a torn triceps. That predicament fundamentally changed how the Redskins could play Sunday.

"It definitely impacted some of the comfort level that I had," Coach Jim Zorn said.

After Thomas went down in a Week 2 win over St. Louis -- a game in which he was replaced by third-year player Will Montgomery -- the Redskins started Chad Rinehart, a third-round pick in 2008, at right guard for the next two games. Rinehart struggled some, and slowly, over the next two weeks, they began to give Williams work at right tackle in practice. When the team regrouped for workouts last Wednesday, Rinehart got the news.

"They put big Mike in there and decided to go with him," Rinehart said. "They didn't really say much."

Williams had started only two games at guard in his career, including his last appearance in an NFL game -- Nov. 27, 2005 for Buffalo against Carolina.

"It was good to get back in," Williams said. "It was exciting. Definitely a new position, so it is challenging -- especially when you had to learn it in just three days."

Perhaps nothing emphasizes the Redskins' predicament along the offensive front as much as that statement: They asked a 29-year-old tackle who had to lose more than 100 pounds just to make the roster to play a position with which he has almost no experience in a crucial game.

"Even when we were developing that with Chad, we were hoping to see what Mike Williams could do in there," Zorn said. "So we gave him some reps. He looked pretty good."

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