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Left tackle Trent Williams is off to a good start for the Washington Redskins
"I played against those guys in the past, so the experiences that I had, that's pretty much what I can pass on to him," Samuels said. "Things to look for, their best moves. When I watch tape, when I see something, I'll mention it to him."
Samuels also has given Williams some off-field guidance, helping the rookie adjust to the NFL lifestyle. The advice might not be different than what coaches offer, but it's hard not to pay attention when the speaker represents everything Williams is striving for.
"Chris played that position," Foerster said. "He came in as a rookie and started as a rookie as well. Just like Trent. So he knows exactly what Trent's going through right now. He's able to offer him that perspective, tell him what to expect, what pitfalls might be there, what's going to happen in the game. 'My first game against so-and-so was like this.' "
Said Williams: "I spend virtually all day with Chris - every day, day in and day out. He's in the meeting rooms, at practice, in the lunch room with us. We're just always talking."
The Redskins' other four starting linemen have started a combined 331 games. Sunday will mark Williams's second start, so he's heeding any morsel of advice that's offered.
"He gives me so much insight," Williams said of Samuels. "I really couldn't gauge it if I didn't have him. I don't even know what it'd be like.
"He just got done going up against a lot of these people that I'm playing. He's got a lot of inside tips. It's not just like a coach telling me what I need to do. It's a person telling me how to do it because he had success in the past doing it that way."
Another tough test
Just as Samuels had first-hand advice from lining up against the Cowboys' Ware, he's also familiar with Mario Williams. The two met in 2006 in Mario Williams's third game as a professional, and Samuels fared pretty well. Mark Brunell wasn't sacked once and the Redskins amassed more than 230 rushing yards. Williams never got so much as a quarterback hurry in the game.
But four years later, Mario Williams is much more comfortable as a pro. Last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, in one of his best games, he sacked Peyton Manning once and managed five more quarterback hurries. Playing end in a 4-3 defense, he'll line up on both sides of the line against the Redskins, but should draw Trent Williams the majority of the time.
"I don't care if it's the first year of [Williams's career] or the 15th year, I just always try to go out and compete against whoever it is out there facing me," Mario Williams said. "It's not like I try to teach something to somebody because they're a rookie. I'm trying to do that to everybody."
Going against the Cowboys' 3-4 defense last week, Washington's coaches didn't feel Trent Williams needed much help in protection. While Mario Williams could be a handful on Sunday, Trent Williams isn't getting babied into the league.
"To me, he's doing a great job for them," said Houston Coach Gary Kubiak, a Shanahan disciple who relies on a similar zone-blocking scheme. "To me, when you draft those young players like that, they go in the fire, so to speak, right off the get-go. . . . I think the quicker they play, the quicker they grow up and become the great players that you drafted them to be. I'm very impressed with him. I think he's doing a hell of a job."
Shanahan knew that much early. Shortly after Williams was drafted, Shanahan started comparisons with Ryan Clady, Shanahan's first-round draft pick in 2008 with the Broncos. Clady started right away and was selected to the Pro Bowl in his second season. First Clady, and now with Williams, Shanahan said he knew after just a couple of practices that he had "something special."
"You could see the quickness, the speed, the intelligence," Shanahan said of Williams. "You knew he was going to be a football player. There's always going to be some growing pains, but hey, that's part of the NFL."
So how good could Williams be? Facing Ware in the season opener was one test. And while Mario Williams is another big challenge, every Sunday will provide a new progress report for a rookie who's already off to a good start.
"I think he's right along the same path that I was," Samuels said. "I think he can be better than I was, if he just continues to work hard and stay on track. He definitely has all the physical tools, he's a smart guy and he learns fast. If he just stays hungry, the sky's the limit for him."
Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.