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
Allen has a history with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-07, a tenure that included eight games against Shanahan's Denver Broncos.
"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.' "
Allen has been a monster in pass rush this season, but Shanahan's teams limited him to 1.5 sacks in their eight meetings.
"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.
• The Redskins will have Trent Williams and Fred Davis back at Redskins Park for the remaining nine days of their drug suspensions, but only to participate in a conditioning program.
"We're not going to do anything football-related relative to meetings," Shanahan said. "When you have people that are on IR or people that get hurt, when you're preparing for a game it's time-consuming. Everybody's really focused. It's really hard to get ready for a game when you're not going to be part of that game plan. We're going to just make sure that we work them pretty hard and get them in shape."
• Running back Roy Helu (knee, ankle) and right tackle Jammal Brown (strained left groin) were limited in Wednesday's practice. Shanahan expects fullback Mike Sellers (right elbow) to be available for the game.
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