With five games remaining, the Redskins are a long shot to make the playoffs with their record at 5-6. They would practically need to win out, starting Thursday night at the Dallas Cowboys, to have a shot at a playoff berth in a very competitive NFC wild-card race.
Left tackle Trent Williams has been taking it week by week while playing through a right knee injury that will eventually require surgery, but he doesn’t have any intention of shutting it down, even if Washington is eliminated from playoff contention.
“I still think there’s some merit to me finishing out this season, regardless if we’re in playoff contention or not,” Williams said. “There’s still some outstanding opponents that I would like to go up against, like [Broncos pass rusher] Von Miller. Even the guys from the Chargers with [Melvin] Ingram and [Joey] Bosa — those guys are tearing it up right now. They’re probably the two best pass rushers on one team. … I always like going up against good opponents, because you get a measuring stick of who you are. I still think there’s merit in going up against those types of guys. That’s my mind frame. I’m trying to make the best out of any situation.”
Williams also has an opportunity to make his sixth straight Pro Bowl, which would tie center Len Hauss (1967-72) for the longest streak in franchise history. Although he has missed three games because of his knee injury, including last Thursday’s victory over the New York Giants, Williams still feels he has played at a Pro Bowl level.
“When you talk about Pro Bowls — obviously all-pro takes more — but at a Pro Bowl level, I think my film can stand up to basically anybody on one leg,” Williams said. “I’m not trying to sound cocky by any means, but I’m just saying that I’m still asked to go do the same thing. I’m still running out on the perimeter. I’m still left on an island to block one-on-one.”
Williams, 29, has put off season-ending knee surgery to continue playing through the injury that initially occurred Oct. 2 at the Kansas City Chiefs. He has missed 20 of the team’s 23 practices, and Williams was a limited participant in the three practices he suited up for. Williams has played (and started) in four of seven games since the injury, playing at a level he believes is comparable to his performance last season.
“I’m not what I know I can be, but I’m not terrible,” he said. “You look at the film, and I’m still [playing] at a high level, at a Pro Bowl level. I’m not really worried about that. Me, I just want to continue to elevate. Having this injury, it’s hard to elevate. I’m kind of at a plateau because it’s hard to work to get better. I’m just trying to maintain. In that sense, it’s frustrating because I want my eighth year to be better than my seventh.”
Williams said his main priority every season is to grow from the year before. That has been difficult this year. He said the lack of practice has been mentally challenging.
“It’s hard to grow when you’re not practicing and basically playing the game with one leg,” Williams said. “… Especially when you play offensive line; that’s a position that constantly needs fine-tuning. Nothing is ever perfect. It’s pretty tough, but it’s challenged me in a way that I haven’t been challenged before. I’m eager to continue to try to keep meeting that challenge head on. There’s growth in that, I guess you can say that.”
It’s why Williams feels confident he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level this season in the eight games he has played, but he’s not sure whether it’s on a first-team all-pro level. Williams has never received that honor, finishing fourth among left tackles last season behind Tyron Smith, David Bakhtiari and Joe Thomas.
Smith and Bakhtiari have battled injuries this season, while Thomas and Jason Peters – who finished fifth among left tackles last year – were placed on injured reserve, so it’s unclear who would be the front-runner.
“I didn’t get all-pro last year, so I would figure I would have to be better than last year to get all-pro this year,” Williams said. “And I don’t know if my film is better than last year. I feel like it’s about the same, on one leg. Imagine what I could’ve done if I was fully healthy.
“It ain’t going to eat me up, man. It’s the game. Nobody gets through this game unscathed. I’ll probably have the first surgery in my career coming up. Just to be able to finish it out would be something I can hold my head high on. It’ll definitely be fuel in my tank. … But if you’d ask me of a tackle that’s playing better, or doing more, I really couldn’t tell you one from what I’ve seen. And I haven’t really watched everybody, too, so you take that with a grain of salt.”