How he beats you: Boasting great size, speed, strength, Allen ranks among the top defensive ends in the league. Allen, who ranks second in the league with 17.5 sacks, explodes off the edge, gets good leverage and uses his hands well. Allen also boasts an array of moves to beat opponents to the quarterback. Says rookie left tackle Willie Smith, who draws the assignment of trying to block the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Allen: “I’ve got my work cut out for me. Great pass-rusher, somebody who really gets after the tackles, and good at working your edges and stuff like that, so he’s definitely a good guy.”
How to stop him: Look for the Redskins to try to give Smith some help by lining up a tight end on the edge as often as they can, but Smith will have a fair share of one-on-one battles with Allen. The key for the 6-6, 290-pound rookie will be to play with consistency and strong fundamentals. “I’ve got to be tight on my fundamentals, watch a lot of film and have a lot of good practices to get ready,” Smith says. “I’ve got to work on keeping my hands inside and keeping my shoulder pads down.” Even still, Allen is likely to make his presence felt, and that could translate into a long day for Smith and quarterback Rex Grossman.
Bottom line: Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan says the key for Smith will be persistence and guarding against discouragement. “The most important thing with Willie is just keep battling. You know he’s going to get you some times; you hope that the quarterback can make a play and get rid of the ball, make a play before that happens. If he doesn’t, you hope he can hold onto it and not make it a worse play. But that’s where as an offensive lineman, if they do get that sack, you’ve got to come back at him, don’t change your technique, keep working on what you’ve been working on and come back at him because it’s going to be a long game.”