Left tackle Trent Williams is off to a good start for the Washington Redskins

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 19, 2010; 12:12 AM

On his seventh play as a professional football player, Trent Williams went dancing.

There were no twirls and no dips, and Williams led the whole way. On second and 10 from the Dallas Cowboys 27-yard line last Sunday, Williams engaged strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, meeting him at the hash marks of the 25-yard line and pushing him backward, all the way until the pair reached the sidelines near the 16-yard line. Tight end Chris Cooley, meanwhile, had caught a short pass from Donovan McNabb and followed Williams, gaining 14 yards and setting up the Redskins' first points in their first win of the season. The rookie's block was as important as anything on the first drive of the Mike Shanahan era.

For many fans, it offered all the validation they needed that the 22-year-old Williams will be able to hold down the left tackle spot, perhaps the biggest hole the Redskins faced in the offseason. Williams concedes his regular season opener felt a lot different than the preseason games. "Everyone was letting all their cats out the bag," the rookie said.

As for Shanahan, he long ago reached a verdict on his first draft pick as Redskins coach. "I think normally you can tell in the first three or four days," he said. "It doesn't take long to see if a guy is a legitimate player."

Aided with a mentor not afforded other rookies, Williams enters the Redskins' Week 2 matchup against the Houston Texans already a step ahead of the other tackles from his class. After holding his own against DeMarcus Ware in his regular season debut, Williams will draw Mario Williams, Houston's powerful defensive end, on Sunday, which is not unlike tearing through a giant rib-eye and getting a plate of pork chops for dessert.

A proven mentor

There was plenty of debate prior to the NFL draft about this year's crop of tackles, considered to be a strong class no matter how the players were ranked. Many were surprised when Trent Williams was the first to hear his name called, as the fourth overall pick. A total of four tackles were selected in the first round, but Williams is the only one currently starting at left tackle.

Russell Okung, considered by many to be the draft's top lineman, went to Seattle with the No. 6 pick; he'll miss his second straight game Sunday with an ankle injury. The draft's 11th overall selection, Anthony Davis, is starting for the 49ers, but they're easing him in at right tackle. Green Bay took Bryan Bulaga with the 23rd pick, and he enters Week 2 as the Packers' backup right tackle. (Rodger Saffold, the first pick of the second round, is the starting left tackle for the Rams, protecting Sam Bradford's blind side.)

Williams has something that Okung and the others don't. Although Okung's offensive line coach, Alex Gibbs, abruptly quit the Seahawks earlier this month, Williams has had offensive line coach Chris Foerster and the help of Chris Samuels, a six-time Pro Bowler whose retirement created Washington's vacancy at left tackle.

Samuels and Williams were linked from the start. Samuels represented the team at the draft in New York and escorted Williams to Washington. They haven't spent much time apart since.

Samuels served as a coaching intern during training camp, but the NFL-sponsored program ended last month. "I begged him not to leave," Williams said. Samuels wasn't ready to leave either, so he asked Shanahan if he could remain with the team for the entire season. Shanahan agreed, and Samuels is at Redskins Park every morning, keeping the same hours as coaches and working closely with all of the linemen, especially Williams.

"From when I first walk in the door until I leave, he's right there with me," Williams said.

Samuels is with the linemen on the practice field and in the meeting room. He watches hours of tape and helps Williams game-plan for pass rushers such as Ware and Mario Williams.

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