When the Redskins face the Carolina Panthers Sunday, veteran Sean Locklear will start at left tackle after spending the first five weeks of the season as a backup to both Williams and right tackle Jammal Brown. Meanwhile, first-year pro Erik Cook – previously a backup guard/center – will start at center, and starting center Will Montgomery will slide over to left guard.
The backups? Rookie tackle Willie Smith – inactive for the first five games – and rookie guard Maurice Hurt, who just was promoted from the practice squad.
Undrafted out of East Carolina, Smith has good size at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, athleticism, and footwork but he still is relatively new to his position. He played defensive line for the first two years of his college career. The Redskins are high on his potential, however, and obviously had enough confidence in him that they didn’t look to add another veteran tackle to the mix.
Now, Smith is one snap away from making his NFL debut.
“You always want to get your opportunity to get in there and show what you’ve got, so I’m pretty excited,” the Smithfield, N.C. native says. “I feel like I’ve been working hard, and my hard work is going to show once I get out there. … Every week, twice a week, I meet with the O-line coach and go over the plays and watch film and all that stuff, so I feel pretty confident. I play left, right. I do it in practice and have ever since I’ve been here, so I feel comfortable either way.”
Hurt, whom Washington drafted in the seventh round out of Florida this past spring, will be called upon to fill in for either guard should one of the starters go down. He was hindered when the lockout cancelled OTAs, but believes that preseason action and additional time on the practice squad has allowed him to make significant improvements since the start of training camp.
“I’m way more comfortable now, just taking the reps and doing more work, actually being able to learn the offense,” the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Hurt says. “Without OTAs and stuff, I was a little behind. But I think I’m up to speed. … I don’t feel like they would’ve brought me up if they didn’t think I knew enough to play. … It’s a great honor, a privilege. I’m just ready to work and help out the team as much as I can.”