Trent Williams eyes mantle of NFL’s best left tackle

July 30, 2013

Trent Williams, center, flanked by Kirk Cousins, left, and Tony Pashos, head out to practice on Day 5 of training camp.

RICHMOND — Trent Williams didn’t want to miss what was happening, so he put up with the reality of a deep thigh bruise in his left leg. And the reality was that he struggled to push off hard on his injured left leg, leading to missed blocks that he used to make with ease.

Williams said he never felt better than 70 percent healthy during the last six games of the seven-game win streak to end 2012, and subsequent playoff loss. He also played part of the season with a sprained ankle. Williams especially had a difficult time making blocks while moving to his right.

“It was definitely hard to watch myself,” Williams said. “I couldn’t grade myself because I know I was having difficulties just performing simple routine blocks. There were some games with adrenaline pumping I was able to hold blocks and sustain blocks and open holes for Alfred. But at the same time it was tough sledding.”

Williams still made the Pro Bowl, but now healthy, he wants to earn more than just a postseason honor. He’d like to be considered the best left tackle in the NFL. His list of contenders: Philadelphia’s Jason Peters, who is coming off an Achilles’ injury but whom Williams has considered the best; Houston’s Duane Brown; Cleveland’s Joe Thomas; Seattle’s Russell Okung.

“I don’t know how close I am, but that’s definitely my mind frame,” he said. “I’ll keep working to obtain that goal. I’ve held my own in the toughest division in football to play in if you’re a left tackle, with the pass rushers we go up against. I’m 25 now and it’s either now or never. It’s about that time to prove myself.”

Because of the thigh injury, Williams last season could not rely on his best assets – his legs. He had matured in his preparation, beginning to study more video during this time. He had to anticipate better, which could only come from knowing his opponents more.

“I couldn’t go out there and react and block people out with pure athleticism,” he said. “I had to study guys and know what was their favorite move and put myself in the best position.”

If he continues studying and matures in other parts of his game, Williams will have a strong say in who is considered the NFL’s best tackle. He’s looked sharp in training camp. Though his athleticism helps tremendously, so, too does his strength. When a pass rusher starts upfield, Williams is able to shove them enough off their path so if they try to spin inside, he’s able to react in time. Other tackles on the Redskins’ roster struggle to do the same.

But Williams also proved to himself that he could withstand a bad situation and play. He said he never considered coming out, saying it would have been a “selfish move.”

“He’s shown our team that he’s going to be a leader, and we expect him to be that type of leader with his athletic ability, with his competitiveness,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “That’s what you’re hoping, that your top athletes on your football team are the guys that set the example on how to practice, how to play, especially those offensive linemen. There’s got to be a toughness there that kind of separates you from the rest of the pack, and he possesses that toughness and he possesses some great athletic ability as well. He made some big steps last year as our leader and I expect him to do the same this year.”

Related: D.C. Sports Bog: Trent Williams wears ‘HOGS’ shirt at training camp

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @john_keim @Insider | @PostSports

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Mark Maske · July 30, 2013