Sunday, May 9, 2010

What am I missing about Mike Williams? (and other minicamp thoughts)

Let me start by saying that I don't mean to pick on Mike Williams.  I have a lot of respect for all the work he put into restoring his NFL career and he's a guy I'd love to be wrong about.  And apparently the new coaching staff thinks I am wrong.  He was given a new contract, and the Post has him penciled in as the starting right guard going into training camp because "Shanahan and his staff liked what they saw on film..."

Now granted Mike Shanahan gets paid several million dollars a year to think about football while I'm just some schmuck with an internet connection.  Nonetheless I can't imagine what the film showed him that made such an impression. 

Williams was certainly better at guard than at tackle, but lets face it, as a tackle he was an outright disaster.  But even at guard Williams' weaknesses were on display.  His total lack of mobility hurt him again and again.  He occasionally got good push based on pure bulk, but he couldn't sustain blocks and the defenders were often able to recover from the initial blow and slip by him due to their superior athleticism.  He frequently struggled to get out on screens.  He understandably has trouble shifting all that weight in different directions, so in pass protection he was vulnerable to spin moves, stunts, or any other routine bits of misderection.  He was not a good guard last year - he was just less awful than when he tried to play tackle.

All I can figure is that Shanahan sees more potential than accomplishment here - we've heard a lot about his confidence in his (and his staff's) ability to coach players to the height of their ability.  With an additional year of conditioning under Williams' belt and a new coaching approach, maybe Shanahan thinks Williams is capable of performing close to the level that made him a first round pick so many years ago.  I hope so, but I'll believe it when I see it.

OK, enough trashing of Big Mike.  We got a few more tidbits out of minicamp.  The two of them I found most interesting are below.  It is of course, May, and everything is subject to change, but at least we can get clues about what the coaching staff is thinking going into 2010.

- WaPo answers one of my questions about the offseason moves : Was G/T Artis Hicks was brought in as interior line depth or to compete with Stephon Heyer for the right tackle job?  It's the latter, and apparently it's Hicks' job to lose for now (I get it - May).  I think I mentioned before that I'm worried about Hicks because if he was any good as a tackle he probably never would have been moved to guard.  Nonetheless I'm pleased to see the coaches think they have found someone who would be an upgrade over Heyer.

- Andre Carter recently looked like someone without a role in a 3-4.  From Tandler:

"[T]he team will play some 4-3, allowing Carter to line up with his hand in the dirt. Also, Jim Haslett has said that version of the 3-4 that the Redskins will use is very different from the one that the 49ers employed. He said that Carter would be much more comfortable in this defense as he wouldn’t be asked to drop back in coverage very often." 

So they are going to use a talented player in such a way as to maximize his strengths.  Not only that, but they are willing to say this to the media so people can quit speculating about his future.  Why doesn't Albert Haynesworth get this courtesy?


  1. I am just a reader with no knowledge of football what so ever. But it is very surprising to me that you question one player who has come a very long way to make it back to the NFL. Seems like he wants it more than other players. I am sure from all the practice you have personally attended gives you the insight that there are other options in right guard position. Or it may be from the stats that shows how many sacks he surrendered or his stats on engaging a DL. Whatever it is what you are missing, I hope you are wrong.

  2. A couple of corrections are in order here -

    As I mentioned in the first paragraph I do not question his effort of character, only his ability.

    I have not attended ANY practices in person other than the occasional open training camp session.

    I'm just a fan like you and go out of my way not to pass myself off as anyone with special expertise. My opinion is based on closesly reviewing all the games on my TiVo and writing up amateurish game reviews, which you can find in the archives to your right. So I feel like I pay pretty close attention, but have never claimed to be an expert. I've never even played organized football at any level. Just some guy who does a free blog in his spare time.

  3. You can't just drop 100 pounds and reasonably expect to play right away. He needed a year to get "comfortable" with his new body. I'm anxious to see him in the pre-season. I agree with Dave O....anything we get from him will be a bonus and should not be expected. As of now, if he is a second stringer on the depth chart, I am worried.

  4. I'm guessing Carter gets the courtesy since he's in town. I do seem to remember when Haslett got here he mentioned they'd play him a a variety of roles:

    Bottom line he needs to get in camp.

  5. I hope I'm wrong, but this line still kinda scares me. Rabach can't really hold off bigger DTs (and hopefully he won't have to in Shanny's scheme), but that's what the leagues seems to be trending towards. Also, like you said, Mike Williams is susceptible to any sort of speed move. It's to be expected that Trent Williams will have some rookie moments and get beat at times. Even Dockery isn't an "elite" o-lineman and Hicks is an unknown. I assume he's an upgrade over the human turnstile known as Stephon Heyer, but this still seems like the shakiest part of the team... I hope that the combination of Shanahan's scheme and McNabb's quicker decision making will help, but after years of watching this team, I'd be a fool to assume that. It'd be great to be proven wrong though.

  6. Mike Williams was a 1st round pick for a reason. He was basically a power running blocker. When he played for the Bills, he weighed 370 lbs. In a resent Redskins Insider interview he said he finally got it meaning that he needed to stay in better condition. Apparently he has been diligent in an off season conditioning program and has impressed Shanny with his effort. Like you, I do not see him with NFL tackle potential, but his stats a Pro Football Focus did not look that bad at the right guard position - Hence there is some reason for optimism.