Thursday, April 22, 2010

ASHBURN, Va. | Let’s hear it for the Longview Lobos — talent pipeline to the Washington Redskins.

Nestled in Dallas Cowboys territory in east Texas, Longview High School has had a player drafted by the Redskins for the third straight year. The biggest of the three came Thursday night, when Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams became the first high-round offensive lineman selected by the team in a decade.

“They might have to hang a couple of Redskins flags across the city of Longview,” Williams said with a laugh.

Williams joins receiver Malcolm Kelly (2008, second round) and linebacker Robert Henson (2009, sixth round) as Longview products on the Redskins roster. Williams even stayed with Kelly for a couple of days during a predraft visit to Washington.

“He gave me advice all through college,” Williams said. “I was like a sponge, soaking everything up.”

The announcement of Williams’ name by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spurned an instant mystery. Goodell introduced the pick as Trent “Silverback” Williams. What was that all about?

“It’s just a little thing my teammates kind of went with on the field,” Williams said. “Beast-like, silverback is one of the most strongest beasts. I was joking around with Mr. Goodell, and told him to call me that and he actually did it.”

Williams said he’s had the nickname for a couple of years. The Redskins wouldn’t mind calling him something else: the cornerstone as they rebuild a line beset by injuries and lack of depth in recent seasons.

The first player drafted under the new Redskins regime of coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen, Williams is expected to take over at left tackle, protecting the blind side of new starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. Last year’s QB, Jason Campbell, was sacked 43 times, the rushing attack ranked 27th, and the 4-12 record was the franchise’s worst since 1994.

“Obviously I thought the left tackle position was a need for us,” Shanahan said.

The Redskins generally ignored the offensive line in drafts under ousted front office chief Vinny Cerrato, preferring instead to focus on flashier impact players. The result wasn’t pretty: The starting line became older and injury-prone, and none of the backups last year had played a single NFL snap in the previous season.

Once they were on the clock, the Redskins had a choice of stud tackles: Williams or Russell Okung from Oklahoma State. Williams’ strength as an agile run blocker made him a solid choice for the zone blocking scheme being installed by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, although Williams played mostly right tackle at Oklahoma before moving to the left side his senior year.

The last offensive lineman drafted in the first or second round by the Redskins was left tackle Chris Samuels, the No. 3 overall selection in 2000. Samuels went to six Pro Bowls and retired after suffering a neck injury early last year. He is the Redskins’ representative at Radio City Music Hall for this week’s draft and met with Williams after the selection was made.

“He told me he’s going to do everything in his power to help me become a good pro tackle, and that coming from him, he’s one of the best to ever do it. I told him I was ready,” Williams said. “It’s some huge shoes to fill.”

Okung was chosen two picks later by the Seattle Seahawks.

Notably, Williams said he didn’t meet with Dan Snyder during his Washington trip, another sign that the Redskins owner has relinquished control of the roster to Shanahan and Allen. Dinners with Snyder were a standard feature of big-name visits in past years.

The Redskins held an NFL-low four picks entering the draft, having dealt the rest of their allotment in three separate trades. They aren’t scheduled to select again until the fourth round on Saturday.

The Redskins could add more picks by trading Campbell or Albert Haynesworth. Shanahan said there are “always people inquiring” about Campbell. The coach also said he wasn’t actively shopping Haynesworth, but he didn’t rule out listening to offers for the disgruntled defensive tackle.

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