Robert Griffin is the unanimous choice for the Redskins’ most important offensive player, but behind him you can make the case for a number of options. One who I think probably deserves the most consideration is LT Trent Williams. Left tackles after quarterbacks are generally the most important position, as without them it’s hard to get an offense going. Unlike receivers, backs or tight ends, left tackles (all offensive linemen really) play every snap, and are actually engaged on every play. Their impact on a per snap basis is pretty high, so the expectation is just as vaulted. That is even more true when you are a former 4th overall pick averaging $10 million a year. Williams thus far has fallen far short of those expectations.
Williams was no doubt thrown to the wolves as a rookie, but typically top 5-10 draft picks can handle the position moderately well as a rookie Williams fell well short of that mark, as he gave up 11.5 sacks and quite a fee pressures. Now he did significantly cut down on the sacks and pressures this past season, but he also played in 4 fewer games (250 snaps). Even with the increase in performance, he’s really not much better than middle of the pack when it comes to left tackles.
Williams has also been plagued by penalties his first two years in the league with a total of 14. combined penalties. Overall that number isn’t too bad (slightly on the highside), but when you figure out all the extra snaps that he missed, Williams has a far higher number. To make matters worse most of Williams’s penalties are of the 10-15 yard variety. The holding penalties also give some extra concern, not only given that they are more yardage, but they usually indicate that Williams is getting beat some. Getting a handle on these penalties can help increase his overall value by a pretty good amount.
One area that is a growing concern is the injuries. In two seasons (32 games) Williams has made just 24 starts, and two of those he had less 20 snaps. While suspension was the cause of 4 of those missed games, injuries cost him the other 4 (plus large portions of those two other games). While none of the injuries have been major, it does make you wonder if he can maintain a 16 game schedule year in and year out. If he ends up being a guy who misses 2-4 games a year, then that significantly reduces his value.
Due to both performance and injury it is pretty clear that Williams has fallen well short of the expectations set upon him. But it is not too late for Williams to get back on track. This is a crucial year for Williams, and not just because the team’s expectations are higher with the presence of Griffin, but because the team has seen some flashes of brilliance that made him such a high pick. Williams has dominated entire halves and games, but he’s never done so on a week to week basis, and that is what the Redskins need. Williams will need to prove that he was worth the high draft pick, and he is still worthy of all of the money they are paying him. Given the Redskins cap situation, they don’t have much choice to keep Williams for now, but next year as his contract starts to rise again the team could start to question if he’s worth investing so much money in (especially while things are tight the next few years).
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Williams as stated earlier has the talent and has shown the Skins flashes of it, but after two years it is time for Washington to actually see Williams take that game to the the next level and become a top 10 LT in the NFL. While it is obviously important to anyone, for Williams to raise his game to this level, it is even more important for the Redskins because he is essentially the only lineman who can. Although there are solid guys along the line like Will Montgomery or Chris Chester, their upside is that of an average to slightly above average offensive lineman. Williams has the top level potential that should allow him to be a top 10 (or even top 5) LT, and that is what the Redskins need. This is the year where the Redskins findout if they made the right call selecting Williams in 2010.
What do you think? Is Williams working his way to a hot seat or will he prove his draft status and contract?