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In Early Going, Hicks, Williams Are On the Right

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The right side of the Redskins' offensive line was seemingly in a constant state of flux last season.

The Redskins started five different players at right guard and two different players at right tackle as injuries decimated the depth and coaches moved linemen around to fill spots elsewhere.

At the Redskins' first mini-camp in mid-April, offensive line coach Chris Foerster gathered his linemen on the field for the first time.

He said he had Artis Hicks, a free agent pickup last March, working with the first team at right tackle and Mike Williams working with the first team at right guard.

It's too soon to put any significance into this lineup, though.

At this point of the offseason, Foerster is mixing and matching at the two positions to find the right combination on the right side. Players such as Stephon Heyer, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chad Rinehart, Edwin Williams and even rookie seventh-round draft pick Selvish Capers could get a look.

Still, it's an opportunity for both Hicks and Williams to claim starting jobs in 2010.

Elsewhere on the line, Derrick Dockery and Casey Rabach return at left guard and center, respectively.

Heyer lined up at left tackle at mini-camp, but top draft pick Trent Williams is expected to take that spot.

Foerster was asked to evaluate his linemen after the mini-camp.

"Good group of big guys, very hardworking," Foerster said. "It is still very early in the process for me, obviously, to do evaluations coming in, but really everybody starts with a clean slate. We've had the first mini-camp, the guys worked very hard. They were very diligent about learning the offense, about working hard in drill work and team periods. I was impressed."

Hicks came into the league in 2002 as an undrafted rookie out of Memphis and established himself as a starting-caliber lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles. He primarily played left guard early in his career, but he has played right tackle and right guard in recent years with the Minnesota Vikings.

Hicks said his versatility helps him as he picks up the Redskins' offense. He is able to apply what he has learned in years past and adjust accordingly.

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Hicks also has a rapport with new quarterback Donovan McNabb--they played together in Philadelphia from 2002-05.

"I think Artis is a guy that, when you put him in one position and let him play there, I think he'll do a fine job of developing into that position, whatever it is," Foerster said. "Sometimes when players have flexibility, it's a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because you're on a team and you do well at a lot of different spots, and other times you don't get a chance to be good at one spot.

"So leaving him in that one position right now and hoping he develops and flourishes into a really good quality starting player at that position is what my hope is for him."

Said Hicks: "With me, I think it is a matter of repetition. At either of the four spots--both guards and both tackles--it's just a matter of me putting whatever hand on the ground for a couple of weeks and getting a good feel over there. I've been fortunate enough to be able to do that in the past, and hopefully I can continue that here."

Mike Williams battled injuries last season--his first NFL regular season action since 2005--but coaches say he had his best efforts when he lined up at right guard.

Williams started five games at right guard last season before a knee injury sidelined him for the season finale.

Like his predecessor Joe Bugel, Foerster believes Williams could develop into a quality interior lineman. He entered the league in 2002 as a prototypical offensive tackle.

"Putting him inside at this point in his career is good for him," Foerster said. "It brings things a little bit closer to him. There's a tremendous amount of explosion, strength, and athletic ability for a guy his size, and he's worked so very hard to get himself into shape. He's still working very, very hard to do that.

"It's kind of exciting to watch him develop as a guard. Now, he's raw at the position. He's not had a lot of time at guard, so he's still got a lot of developing to do at the position. But right now, he's done everything that we could ask to put himself in a position to help us there."

Questions at left tackle were resolved in the draft with the selection of Trent Williams.

That's three-fifths of the offensive line set heading into the team's second mini-camp in mid-May.

Foerster echoed head coach Mike Shanahan in saying that left tackle is a natural position for Williams.

Williams played three years of right tackle in college and one year at left tackle.

Said Foerster: "I see his ability in the running game to get out quickly on edge players. His ability on the back side to chase down linebackers because of his foot speed. His ability to catch back side defensive lineman that you are running away from. His ability to pull in open space. His ability to pass sets to get on edge pressure, wide rushers because of the foot speed and athleticism. His ability to recover from bad situations because he's a better athlete.

"All those things--the list goes on. The better the athlete, the better foot speed, the better the quickness, the easier those things become. Now there is still the skill set that has to go with all that athletic ability, but he is very, very impressive."

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