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Suspensions open the door for others to land new roles with Redskins
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."
Coach Mike Shanahan said quarterback Rex Grossman did not play as well Sunday as he did in the past few games. "I think as he looks at the film, he'll be somewhat disappointed in his play," he said. Shanahan declined to offer specifics.
• Punter Sav Rocca injured his left ankle when a New York rusher made contact on a punt during the first half. Shanahan on Monday emphasized the Jets should have been penalized for roughing the kicker, which would have given the Redskins a first down. Instead, the call was running into the kicker, which the Redskins declined.
"It's black and blue," Shanahan said of Rocca's ankle. "Hopefully it won't keep him out."
• Shanahan called the NFL offices to request an explanation for the roughing-the-passer penalty called against cornerback Kevin Barnes in the third quarter Sunday. Referees said Barnes was penalized for hitting quarterback Mark Sanchez after the whistle sounded when a false start penalty stopped the play.
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