- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2011

Willie Smith has been on the Washington Redskins‘ 53-man roster since final cuts Labor Day weekend, though you’d never know it from watching their games each week. He hasn’t stepped onto the field since the preseason.

That could change during the final four games if starting left tackle Trent Williams is suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Smith or veteran Sean Locklear likely would replace him.

Smith, an undrafted rookie, believes he has progressed during the past three months and is capable of playing well.

“It felt like redshirting,” he said. “I got stronger in the weight room. I lost all the fat and gained muscle mass, so I did everything I could do on my end being that I wasn’t on the field.”

As a member of the scout team, Smith frequently faces Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo in practice. Orakpo’s speed has challenged Smith to improve elements of his technique that were problematic during the preseason.

“When you have speed like that, it makes the offensive lineman get off balance to get out there,” he said. “And just being under control, learning how to take the proper steps to be under control and be balanced. It’s all about fundamentals.”

Locklear started at left tackle in losses to Carolina and Buffalo because Williams was sidelined by a high ankle sprain. He was critical of his play after surrendering sacks in both games. He knows the offense, though, and is more experienced.

Locklear doesn’t view Williams‘ predicament as a positive development for himself.

“I want those guys to play,” he said. “They’re starters. That’s what they’re here for. But I will take advantage of the opportunity for sure.”

Paulsen likely to start at TE

Just as Smith’s or Locklear’s role could expand with Williams out, third-string tight end Logan Paulsen likely would be the starter if Fred Davis is suspended.

Paulsen’s playing time already increased after Chris Cooley broke his left hand in Week 6 and was placed on injured reserve.

“You’ve got to make the most of every opportunity,” he said. “It’s unfortunate how this happened, but I’ve got to capitalize on it.”

Paulsen’s blocking would immediately be tested. He surrendered a sack to linebacker Jammal Westerman in Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets.

“I need to be a little bit better with my technique,” he said. “He made a nice little shoulder dip or whatever, but I’ve got to make that play for the team.”

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