Williams is pushing to start in secondary

The aberration was last year. The opportunity, more than ever, is now.

After a season spent as a reserve in San Francisco, safety Madieu Williams is facing a far different situation with the Redskins. Not only does he have the chance to nail down a starting job, doing so could provide stability at a position where Washington sorely needs some.

An eight-year veteran, Williams has a unique understanding of what it will take and how quickly it has to happen. To get there, he's drawing more from his seven seasons as a starter with Minnesota and Cincinnati than his experience last year with the 49ers.

"I'm not going to dwell on it," Williams said of 2011. "But I know I've been playing a long time, and I've been starting since I've been in the league. It's not anything new to me, just going out there and playing football."

Williams finished with just nine tackles last year, his fewest of his career. Starting with 103 tackles as a rookie out of Maryland, Williams has had at least 73 in five of his eight years. He had 42 in nine games in 2008 after missing the first seven games of the year with a neck injury.

His presence in the Redskins' secondary has been a welcome one after an inconsistent year held back by Oshiomogho Atogwe's struggles and LaRon Landry's slow recovery from an Achilles injury. At 30 years old, Williams may not have the raw speed and power of a youngster, but he compensates with football smarts that are crucial for in-game adjustments.

"Even when we mess up, a positive comes from it because we understand who needs to change and how each one of us likes to play," Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said. "That's the most important thing, figuring out not so much how it says in the book, but how each one of us likes to play."

Williams has also benefitted from a year in San Francisco's 3-4 defense, where his running game assignments were similar. Wilson said the urgency with which Williams and Brandon Meriweather, another veteran free agent signed in the offseason, have both taken to their roles has allowed the secondary to accelerate its progression during training camp.

"At this stage for me," Williams said, "I think it's just making sure that I've done my preparation, making sure that I'm still on top of the communication with the other three guys on the back end when you're out there. If we are, we eliminate all the big plays and things like that."

Success allows for more good natured high school banter between Williams (DuVal), Wilson (DeMatha) and Tanard Jackson (Bullis).

"[Williams] went to a sorry high school," Wilson joked. "It's not his fault. We used to practice track at little old DuVal. He didn't have a chance in high school. Now I guess he figured he couldn't beat us so he joined us."