To help fill the massive void left by Williams’ absence, Washington signed veteran offensive tackle Donald Penn to compete with Geron Christian for the starting left tackle job. While Penn has had stretches of fantastic play in recent years with the Raiders, neither he nor Christian can really duplicate the effectiveness that Williams brings.
That raises an important question: what exactly is Washington going to miss without Williams playing? No one would know that better than a longtime teammate like right tackle Morgan Moses. So, SB Nation watched film with Moses at training camp to get a better sense of why Williams is such a unique, explosive blocker.
Williams is a steamroller of a run blocker
Williams has made his money as a blindside protector in the passing game, but his reps as a run blocker give a clearer view of his incredible physical traits.
Here’s a clip of Williams (No. 71) from Washington’s game against the Green Bay Packers last season.
“This is a stretch play to the left,” Moses said. “He basically takes the defensive end off of the screen. That play is supposed to cut up, but he got such a great stretch on that defensive end that Adrian [Peterson] was able to stretch it outside.”
Moses noted that Williams was executing what he called a “force line reach,” which means he was lunging at the end in an attempt to keep him from going inside. With Williams’ athleticism, he was able to drive the Packers’ defender right into the grass after making the initial contact.
Williams’ ability to attack wasn’t just on display in their game against the Packers. This clip from their home game against the Cowboys shows off that trait too.
“He’s attacking the defensive end and not reacting. So basically, he’s putting the defensive end where he has to play the run, but he’s so athletic that he can pass set that and make it look the same,” Moses said.
That last point is key and brings Williams’ football IQ into light. It’s a run on first-and-10, but a pass is very much still in play. If Williams can make his run block look like a pass block, he can essentially make the defensive end take himself out of the play.
“The play doesn’t call for a pass set, but he knows he can get him to come upfield and take the end wherever he wants to go.”
While that sustained power through a few steps of contact is impressive, Williams can also knock defensive linemen aside with one big push. He did that with ease against the Saints’ top pick from the 2018 NFL Draft.
“This is kind of the same thing. It’s a force line reach on outside zone,” Moses relayed. “This is a rare, rare trait, man. He’s so explosive out of his stance — this is a first-rounder [Marcus Davenport] he’s going against too. To remove him off the line and open up some space for Chris Thompson to work across the field.”
Williams can hold blocks for seconds and knock back defenders with one powerful push, but he can also use his body to shield defenders away from his running backs.
Watch him rotate his body against Mario Addison when Washington played the Panthers. Although it may not look like the most effective rep, Moses believes even plays like this show how dominant Williams is.
“He’s athletic enough to get out there. The hard thing is that the end is always looking inside, so you want to keep your head up to be aware of an inside move,” Moses explained. “It’s harder than it looks — it’s actually very hard. The defense has athletes, too. To have a tackle that can man up like that and help spring plays free, it gives the running back more lanes to run through. Even if he had to make a man miss in this situation.”
Williams is adept at springing plays open when they come to his side. His athleticism shows up in space as well — one of his best plays as a member of Washington’s football team came on a screen.
Williams is a god in the screen game
Head coach Jay Gruden loves to incorporate the screen game as a part of the offense, and players like Williams make it easier to trust that those plays will work. There’s one play in particular that highlights this ability better than any other.
In 2017, Chris Thompson broke free for a 74-yard gain on a tunnel screen against the Raiders. None of it would’ve been possible without some stellar blocking by Washington’s offensive line, which included a rep by Williams at offensive guard.
“Somebody was hurt this game and Trent had to move to offensive guard,” Moses said. “It just shows you the versatility, man. You got the best left tackle in the NFL who can switch in a heartbeat to guard and really get out there on a screen.”
Williams was playing left guard on this play. After he swam past No. 97 on the Raiders, he immediately gained speed and got in the way of a pursuing safety.
“You look at him here and see his athleticism helps him get out to the numbers. Just look at how he tracks and chases down the safety and keeps the safety out of [Chris Thompson’s] way and springs him up the field for a big play.”
An offensive linemen that threatens defensive backs with speed is an incredibly hard player to find.
There’s a chance that Washington’s offense might be able to hold up without the stalwart left tackle, but there’s no denying it’d be far better with him in the lineup. As Moses explained, Williams’ athletic ability in space, power, technique, and positional versatility make him almost impossible to replace on an individual basis.
Now Washington is headed into the new season without its left tackle and with journeyman Case Keenum as its starting quarterback and rookie first-round pick Dwayne Haskins waiting in the wings.
Williams may not ever play for Washington again because of an issue with how the team handled his recovery from a benign tumor. If not, whichever team Williams suits up for next is getting a top-flight left tackle.