Early in his NFL career, Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams used to lose sleep the week leading up to a matchup with a premier pass-rusher. Williams would sit up late, watching video or just lying in bed, agonizing over what he had to do the upcoming Sunday to protect his quarterback.
Four years later, Williams is a Pro Bowl left tackle and this season ranks among the best at his position. But nothing has changed. Williams stood in front of his locker at Redskins Park on Thursday, bleary-eyed once again — this time because of his upcoming date with Chicago’s Julius Peppers.
Williams already this season has neutralized perennial Pro Bowl pass rushers such as Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and DeMarcus Ware (until Ware left Sunday’s game with injury). He has consistently won his battles, thus far has not surrendered a sack in five games, and appears on target to return to the Pro Bowl.
But Williams says the upcoming meeting still has cost him sleep this week.
“It’s still — it’s Julius Peppers, man,” Williams said. “It doesn’t get too much harder than that as far as blocking somebody. He definitely stays on your mind until after the game.”
Peppers is coming off of his eighth Pro Bowl — his fifth consecutive. Describing his skill set and success, Williams says, “He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s very athletic, fast, strong, crafty. Household name. He’s a household name for a reason. … He has speed, he has power and he also has great moves that can get any offensive tackles off-guard.”
Williams says that Peppers and Ware have two different styles, so facing Ware didn’t help him in preparing for Peppers.
A 12th-year veteran, the 6-foot-7, 287-pound Peppers has recorded 10 or more sacks in eight of the past 11 seasons. This season, he has only one sack in six games. But Williams said that doesn’t mean there has been a drop-off in Peppers’s game.
“I don’t see a difference,” Williams said. “He’s still a disruption in the backfield. Maybe production goes down, but that’s because everyone keys on him and you can’t sneak up on anybody.”
Williams managed to hold Peppers without a sack in his first and only regular season meeting against the all-pro end in 2010. But Williams has made significant strides in the past three seasons.
“I’m a different player. It’s been a while since I’ve faced him a whole game,” said Williams, who hopes experience will serve him well this time around. “I’d like to think I’m a little stronger than before. I know the game a little more. But I don’t think that’ll do much justice, going up against a guy like that.”
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● The Redskins’ practiced Thursday at 1 p.m. Both coordinators spoke with reporters, and more blog posts are forthcoming.
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