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Pro Bowl-Bound Samuels Faces Challenge

The four-time Pro Bowler doesn't get a break this weekend. In fact, Chris Samuels may by facing his stiffest challenge of the season on Week 16 in St. Louis.

Assuming that he'll be matched up versus the Rams' Leonard Little for an extended time, Samuels will have to be at the top of his game.




Little, the 6-3, 263-pound ninth-year defensive end out of Tennessee, comes into the game with 12 sacks, tied for sixth-best in the NFL. Presumably, he'll also be fired up over his Pro Bowl snub.

On playing in St. Louis this week Samuels said: "Those guys are flying around and making plays. Leonard Little--I've been playing against him since college. He's an outstanding player. He's very fast off the ball, physical and is going to play hard. We definitely have our work cut out for us."

Asked what he needs to do to control Little, Samuels said: "Getting on him quick will be the key. If you back up and retreat he has two or three ways to go on you, and he has a lot of speed. The bull-rush is always a deadly rush move that the defensive lineman use. If you can get on him quick and stop his feet early you can have success against him."

Generally, Samuels gets especially motivated to play against Simeon Rice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Rice was out with an injury when the Redskins were at Tampa Bay on Week 11, so Little may be Samuels' top individual opponent of 2006.

When the Redskins won at St. Louis 24-9 last Dec. 4, they held the Rams to just one team sack. Little had seven tackles but no sacks. That game began Washington's six-game winning streak.

Samuels, the Redskins' 6-5, 310-pound left tackle now in his seventh NFL season, has played against Little and the Rams three previous times in his career-in 2000, 2002 and last year, all wins by the Redskins. That's a trend Samuels hopes to keep going.

St. Louis Rams head coach Scott Linehan certainly believes Little should be Hawaii-bound.

Said Linehan, who has the Rams at 6-8 and still playoff hopeful in his first year as head coach: "I truly believe Leonard's playing at a Pro Bowl level. He has double digits in sacks while being double teamed all year. He's very good against the run, and he's forced five fumbles. I knew coming into this, he was going to be one of our better players."

Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs says the Little-Samuels confrontation will be one of the keys on Sunday.

Added Gibbs: "When Al [Saunders] was there in St. Louis, he said he saw Little run under 4.5, or something close to that. [Little] is an exceptional pass rusher. He has 12 sacks and you don't ever like a matchup with someone like that.

"Chris is a good athlete himself. That is what makes him unusual. With your left tackles, you pride yourself on having an athletic one--and certainly we do. He can really run, plus he's just a complete player.

"He's very important to us from a leadership standpoint. If you hear him out there at practice, he's always having fun and joking with someone. He gets everyone going. The chemistry aspects of a football team are really important. You have people who just add something extra, and Chris is one of those."

Like all of his teammates, Jason Campbell hopes Samuels will be able to keep Little--who has 17 multi-sack games in his NFL career--contained on Sunday afternoon in the Edward Jones dome.

"Little's been playing relentless football this year," said Campbell. "He's been following the ball everywhere it goes. He has a motor that never stops-that's what makes great defensive ends."

On being selected to his fourth Pro Bowl, Samuels said: "It means a lot from an individual standpoint, but our team goal was to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. That didn't happen for us, so I am disappointed.

"But it is a blessing to make the Pro Bowl again. A lot of guys have respect for me around the league, they voted for me, and the coaches did as well. The fans voted for me and I appreciate that, too."

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