Time for plug-ins

Time for plug-ins
December 5, 2011, 8:30 pm
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UPDATED 5:25 p.m.

Throughout this subpar Redskins season, opportunities for playing time have developed because of season-ending injury, a starter underperforming or a tweak to the game plan.

Suspension can now be added to the list.

Although the four-game bans handed to tight end Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams for failing a third drug test, as reported by Sports Illustrated on Sunday, have not been confirmed by the NFL, the Redskins locker room started life without Nos. 83 and 71 Monday morning.

For tackle Sean Locklear, it represents a chance to put four games on tape to prove to other NFL teams he remains a starter-quality player.

For tackle Willie Smith, the longest shot in training camp to make the roster, its potentially his first chance to see regular season action.

And for tight end Logan Paulsen, its his second promotion of the year. He already moved from third-string to back-up when Chris Cooley was put on injured reserve.

Obviously, it will hurt, but guys have to step up, safety Reed Doughty said. Thats why were here not just to be back-ups and watch the game, but be ready to play.

With Williams out, the Redskins will start a sixth different offensive line combination, including their fifth in eight games.

Locklear was a part of that shuffle, starting the Carolina and Buffalo games for an injured Williams and the Miami game for banged-up right tackle Jammal Brown.

As the back-up, I want Williams and Davis to play theyre the starters and thats why theyre here, Locklear said.

Locklear was signed as insurance early in the training camp and has 80 career starts.

Thats why they signed me to be a back-up and be able to play, he said. Ive played a lot more than I expected, but thats why Im here. Being here all year, going to camp, I know everything scheme-wise. I sit back and watch and get to watch the guys every week so I know exactly whats going on.

If the Redskins want to go young, they will choose Smith, 24, over Locklear, 30.

An undrafted free agent, Smith made the team out of training camp but hasnt played a snap and dressed in only three of 12 games.

Smith compared this year to his redshirt season at East Carolina. Lots of practice, but no games.

Its very similar, just practicing week in and week out and preparing and preparing and preparing and then not playing, he said.

Smith has used each weeks practices going against Brian Orakpo and occasionally Ryan Kerrigan as his gauge for improvement.

Really, all you can go off of is how you do in practice, Smith said. As time goes on, you get more confident and blocking guys like Orakpo in practice is definitely good to do. Those are two good pass rushers, if I can block those guys in practice, I know I can get it done in the games.

Said coach Mike Shanahan: Hes done a good job. You never know about a young player until he goes out there and plays but he does have a lot of athletic ability.

Smith said the focus since the preseason has been finishing his blocks in the running game and being more fundamentally sound in pass protection.

I just want to show the organization that Im a tackle that can be used and my fundamentals have greatly improved, he said.

Paulsen has been a regular part of the offensive rotation since Cooley was shut down after five games. Entering the Jets game, he had averaged 21.5 snaps the previous four weeks. He has seven catches for 95 yards.

As Logan is getting some playing time, I think hes feeling more comfortable in our system, Shanahan said. I think hes enjoying playing more so now than he ever has because hes getting to play in game situations.

Speaking for himself, though it applies for the trio, Paulsen added: Its unfortunate how this happened, but Ive got to capitalize on it.

Contact OHalloran at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com.