Team's top pick in 2010 still has lots of studying to tackle
His education lasted the entire season, with each team presenting Trent Williams something he had never seen. So the result was this: dominance mixed with struggle, sometimes alternating by the play.
Williams mixed flash -- athleticism that bailed him out of negative situations -- with flaws -- failing to recognize stunts or fully know his opponent. At times he looked like a future All-Pro. Other times he looked like a struggling rookie.
In many ways Williams had a low-key season, thanks to drama surrounding big-name players such as Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb. But Williams is a key player for the Redskins, possibly serving as the cornerstone of their line for the next decade. The only other Redskins rookie to start a game was undrafted running back Keiland Williams. But Trent Williams started 12 games and faced seven ends/linebackers who posted at least eight sacks this season -- five of whom finished in double digits.
"I saw a guy with a tremendous amount of ability," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said at his news conference a day after the regular season ended. "But he's a rookie. He has to learn how to be a pro."
That entails studying his opponent more and watching more film. The knock on Williams coming out of college was his work ethic, but most players talk about learning how to study film the right way when they come to the NFL -- and how it sometimes takes a couple years.
"Sometimes when I think I've seen it before and they hit me with something else, I get fooled that way," Williams said before the season finale. "When you think you got it, you never got it like you think you could. ... I would like for [the season] to be better. If I could do it all over again it would be better. I'd know what to expect."
And Shanahan singled out former Denver Broncos left tackle and Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman, whom he coached for three seasons, as an example Williams should follow.
"Gary knew [his opponent], knew every move that he had," Shanahan said. "He knew him better than he knew himself. When you have that type of ability, you have a chance to shut a lot of people down. But you have to have that mindset and work ethic to get that done. Hopefully Trent will learn that as time goes on. I think he will.
"The great thing about Trent -- he is a worker. There's a big upside."
His teammates see it, too. They noticed the foot speed, which makes him a strong fit in the stretch zone-blocking scheme. Center Casey Rabach, who played with perennial Pro Bowl tackles Chris Samuels and Jonathan Ogden in his career, issued strong praise.
"He's the most athletic tackle I've ever played with," Rabach said. "What Trent will benefit from is the experience he learned from this year and to anticipate different things and to not have to make up for a lack of understanding the pro game and using his athletic ability as much as he did. He'll be amazing next year."