The Philadelphia Eagles reportedly had for Bears offensive lineman Chris Williams in for a visit today. Williams is a former first-round draft pick, 14th overall, in 2008.
The first question that comes to mind, is, how good can this guy be if Chicago cut him during the season? The logical answer is, probably not too good.
Finding a solid starter at this point of an NFL season is akin to Fantasy Football players searching the waiver wire in a 14-team league where every team can hold 18 players on their roster.
If you’re not a FF player, then let me translate: the pickins’ are mighty slim and if someone is available, it means they’re no good.
With that said, I’m wondering if a player like Chris Williams could flourish under the system used by Howard Mudd. He must have had some kind of talent if he was good enough to warrant a first round draft pick not that long ago (I know, there have been numerous first-round busts).
What we know right now is that Williams was left tackle in college. He was drafted to play that position by Chicago, but apparently their style of OL play didn’t fit too well with him at that position. So, they moved him around the line to try and find his niche.
He started 38 games over his first 4 years, 20 of which were at left guard. His rookie season was a scratch due to a back injury and last year he was placed on injured reserve with a wrist injury after starting the first 9 games.
In 2009, his only true full season as a starter, he started the first 11 games at right tackle and the last 5 games at left tackle. According to the grading system used by Pro Football Focus, this was WIlliams’ best year — particularly at left tackle.
PFF has him giving up 7 sacks and 9 hits to the QB in 2009. However, all of the hits and 5 of the sacks came from the right tackle position. His last 2 seasons, most of which was spent at left guard, PFF has him giving up a total of 3 sacks and 11 QB hits.
However, they didn’t grade him out too well overall, but his score was mostly dragged down by poor run-blocking.
The good news is, the Eagles never run the ball! (I’m kidding, sort of)
This is where some of his initial college scouting could come into play and why I think he could be more of a Howard Mudd kind of guy.
Here’s what John Crist of Scout.com had to say about him back in 2008:
Big, athletic, and NFL-ready as a pass protector right now, Williams has all the tools to be a dominant left tackle for the next decade. Although he needs to get a little nastier on the ground and lacks that classic mean streak you like to see in the trenches, he has tremendous physical tools and shows excellent technique against smaller and faster defenders out in space.
Furthermore, check out this article about Williams over at Football Outsiders. Here is an excerpt that quotes a well respected former NFL scout named Tom Marino (and now is part of Scout.com as well):
Former St. Louis Rams scout Tom Marino, who watched copious game tape on all the major 2008 prospects for his work with Scout.com, told me that first of all, the “nasty streak” aspect is overrated. “I wouldn’t worry about his temperament,” Marino said. “It’s fine, in my opinion. Orlando Pace is not a nasty guy either.
“I think Williams is the best left tackle prospect in the draft. He is very sharp when it comes to football, and I know his position coach, Robbie Caldwell, very well. (Caldwell says that Williams is) the best he has ever been around in 31 years of coaching. Williams knows everyone’s assignment, and he’s a self-starter who will work to get better.
“He has very good strength, plays on his feet, and carries his weight well — he could (bulk up to) 325 easily. I really liked his balance and ability to shift his weight and stay under control. He can knock people off the ball and also showed the ability to wheel and seal. I really liked his blocking range and ability to get to the second level.
The key things to take away here are that the 6′ 6″, 315-pound Williams is athletic and plays well at the second level. Some have said he doesn’t have that kind of mean streak you like in linemen, but Jason Peters wasn’t exactly known for his nastiness either.
It’s easy to say that Williams must stink because he was released at this point in time. It’s also difficult to envision the Eagles signing him and starting him immediately. One would think there must be a learning curve for the Mudd system and for that matter, a player to learn any new system in mid-season.
Therefore, don’t expect a sudden solution at left tackle if the Eagles do indeed sign him.
However, if he has the physical tools and the right attitude, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could end up being a solid addition in time.
I won’t pretend to know why Williams couldn’t make it in Chicago, which is another team that has had problems with their offensive line. What I do know is that certain players have a knack for excelling in certain schemes that fit their skillset better.
I believe Chicago runs somewhat of a standard, Juan Castillo-ish style of offensive line play. Howard Mudd’s style demands athleticism and players who can get to the second level.
Perhaps Howard Mudd is just what Chris Williams needs to thrive in the NFL. He might not be the answer for the Eagles’ offensive line woes, but it sure as hell can’t hurt to give him a try if he checks out well physically.