The cornerstone of Washington’s line feels relief because the wait from January to April (between the time Gruden got the job as head coach and the time players could begin working with the coaching staff) seemed to drag. And during that long wait, Williams found it hard to forget the painful 3-13 season from 2013. The coaching change – the first of Williams’s four-year career – also produced uncertainty.
But now, after getting to know Gruden, learn his philosophies and observe how he runs things, and getting a preview of the offense, Williams describes himself as at ease and excited. He said the excitement radiates throughout the whole team.
“It’s definitely a relief to kind of get back with the on-the-field stuff and try to put that 3-13 season behind us. It’s been fun,” Williams said on Wednesday. “Guys have been very willing to work. Nobody’s coming out here with a bad attitude. We’re all out here to work as a team, being enthusiastic and I see a change.”
Much of the offensive line responsibilities and methods will remain the same – particularly in the run game, where while using zone-blocking schemes, Washington has ranked among the league leaders in each of the past two seasons. Because of that success, Gruden retained offensive line coach Chris Foerster. And, in another move that will help ensure continuity, Gruden promoted tight ends coach Sean McVay to offensive coordinator. Gruden has designed an offense that features the best of Washington’s attack in the past two seasons along with significant portions of his own playbook from his time as offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Jay has done a great job of trying to keep things that we’re really familiar with, things that we do well and brushing up things he thinks we didn’t do well. It’s a great mix. It’s working out well,” said Williams said. “We had the top rushing offense every time we used [zone-blocking schemes], so we’re definitely not scrapping that. It’s what we do well. It’s what our offensive line was formulated to do. So, we’re definitely not scrapping that. We’re just blending it.”
The offensive line hasn’t gone untouched, however. Washington signed a new starting left guard in Shawn Lauvao, moved the previous left guard, Kory Lichtensteiger, to center, and used third-round picks on Spencer Long and Morgan Moses, who will compete with starting right guard Chris Chester and starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus.
Williams and Lauvao work most closely with one another, and although still early in their acclimation process, Williams says the two have started to develop the chemistry needed to execute effectively on the left side of the line. Moses – whether this year or further down the road – will eventually take over as the bookend opposite Williams. The Virginia product said he has leaned heavily on Williams as he learns the pro game. Williams likes what he sees in the rookie.
“Moses is great. Gifted athlete, huge, obviously, he can move people off their feet and move his feet as well. Very long arms,” Williams said. “I told him once he gets the mental part down, he’ll play in this league for a long time.”
Williams, meanwhile, believes that despite coming off of back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, he sees himself with room for improvement. He aims to become more dominant this season.
Explaining his goal, he said, “Just being a consistent player – playing at an elite level every play, and not trying to play down to my competition, but trying to keep a steady level of elite play.”
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