Willie Smith has had quite an introduction to the NFL. The Washington Redskins' undrafted rookie left tackle has faced New England’s Andre Carter and the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul in his first two games. Those two defensive ends have combined for 23.5 sacks this season.
Smith on his third NFL play surrendered a sack that resulted in a fumble, which New England recovered for a touchdown. However, he did not give up a sack last week against the Giants in his first start.
“I got off the ball better and got my hands inside a little bit better,” Smith said. “Just fundamentally I was a lot more sound, but still I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Smith made the 53-man roster after final cuts in September, but he was inactive for nine games and did not play in three others until starting left tackle Trent Williams was suspended for the final four games of the season.
Smith’s greatest test so far might be Saturday. Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has 17.5 sacks, the second-highest total in the league. Smith’s confidence level entering the game will depend on how well he practices this week, he said.
“I’ve just got to keep working on getting my hands inside, keeping my shoulder pads down and finishing blocks,” he said.
Cracking down on Allen
“One time we were playing, I saw Allen in the offseason,” Shanahan recalled this week. “He said, ‘Hey, you’ve been trying to get me on this crack block.’ I started laughing. I said, ‘I’m going to get you sooner or later.’
“Well, we were playing in Kansas City, and for some reason he goes out of the game when we had called a play for the tight end to come in and block him. And so we just kill the guy who’s been substituted for Allen. And I look across the field and he’s pointing his finger at me and he’s laughing as hard as he can. I couldn’t help it - I had to start laughing myself.
“I saw him in Vegas that offseason and he looked at me and he said, ‘Oh, that was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. You just killed my substitute. That could have been me.’ “
“I was so happy when he left Kansas City when I was there [in Denver] to go to Minnesota,” Shanahan said. “But then, unfortunately, we’ve got to face him this weekend.”
Will Shanahan try again to get Allen with the crack block Saturday?
“Could be,” he said with a sly smile.