The Redskins head into their final practice day before Sunday’s game against the New York Giants ostensibly still deciding who will play left tackle – either rookie Willie Smith or veteran Sean Locklear. The evidence, though, points to Smith, who struggled in parts of his NFL debut last Sunday against the New England Patriots – giving up a sack that forced a fumble that led to a touchdown on the third play of his career – but rebounded to play solidly, in the estimation of coaches, for much of the second half.
“I thought it was good experience for Willie,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Thursday. “For him to get in there, his first time playing, he by no means was perfect. But he battled and fought through some things — did some good things, some bad things — but it was just to get him that experience for himself, and hopefully he can improve on it each week.”
On the touchdown, Smith was badly beaten by former Redskin Andre Carter, who sacked quarterback Rex Grossman and stripped him of the ball. Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wolfork recovered for a touchdown that put New England up 7-0 in a game the Patriots eventually won, 34-7.
In such a situation, neither Kyle Shanahan nor his father, Coach Mike Shanahan, went to talk to Smith individually. That task is left to offensive line coach Chris Foerster.
“It’s a tough situation,” Kyle Shanahan said. “He gets thrown in there. We’re backed up in the end zone. He definitely didn’t do a good job on that play. Rex held onto it a little bit longer than he could’ve. Rex could’ve saved him if he got rid of it earlier. Willie could’ve saved Rex if he blocked him just a little bit better. That stuff happens.
“The biggest thing is: How does a guy recover? We [didn’t] really know that with Willie … because it’s the first time really playing with him. To see him not shut down out there after that, to still compete and work through it, was good to see.”
The Redskins began the game against the Patriots by rotating series between Smith and Locklear, but Smith finished things off. With starting right tackle Jamaal Brown yet to practice this week — Brown went down in pregame drills last week with a groin problem — it’s likely Tyler Polumbus will make his second straight start at that position, making the Redskins thinner still along the offensive front.
“Really, going into that game, [Polumbus] was our backup at every single position except center,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Once we lost our starting right tackle, we don’t really have too many backups, so I was keeping our fingers crossed that Polumbus didn’t get hurt.”