Sunday saw the long anticipated debut of 2008 first round (#14 overall) draft pick Chris Williams at left tackle for the Bears. He had a chance to play against another member of that draft class, number 2 overall selection to the St. Louis Rams, defensive end Chris Long. Long picked up a sack, but overall, how did Williams fare? I'll try and dissect his game against the Rams and look at why he's a better fit on the left side rather than the right. First up I'll tackle the left side vs. the right...
Number one he's naturally left handed. Something you may not think makes much of a difference, but it's all in their stance. Players that line up on the left side of the offensive line use a left handed stance. The lefty three point stance is the exact opposite of the righty stance most of us that grew up playing football are accustomed to. Years back coaches would simply have players get in which ever three point stance they were most comfortable with. These days many high schools are teaching to change the stance depending on which side of the line you play.
The left handed stance is as follows; feet shoulder width apart, left foot slightly back (usually lined up with the right instep), left hand on the ground, right arm on right thigh. Yes that is Hall Of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz over there in his left handed three point stance. The point of the left handed stance on the left side is it allows better pass blocking technique. When pass blocking you push off with your inside foot while reaching back with your outside foot. By starting this way your hips are in a better position as you don't have to turn them to get settled into proper pass blocking technique. With the hips in place, and already slightly facing the usually lined up outside pass rusher, you are in better position to deliver the hand punch as well. The less a player has to move to get in position the better.
Number two his athleticism makes him a better fit on the left side. So much emphasis is placed on protecting a right handed quarterbacks blind side, so you want a tackle with quicker feet on the left. The more mauling, road grader type is usually on the right side.
And number three, and most importantly, Williams is more comfortable on the left. At Vanderbilt he was on the left side, last year (when healthy) he was on the left side, and before Orlando Pace was signed this year his reps were on the left side.
When looking at the Rams game in detail, and trying to grade out his performance, keep in mind that I have no idea his exact responsibilities from play to play. Therefore my analysis could be slightly skewed. I made my best guess on his assignments based on my years playing, coaching, and watching football, but unless I'm invited into Halas Hall, I really have no way of knowing for sure. I graded him out using the most basic of grading systems, on every offensive snap I gave him a plus (did his job) or a minus (didn't do his job). When grading him out he ended up with a +46 out of 57 plays. I'm sure he'd be even harder on himself than I was, and I'm sure the coaches were harder on him as well.
I'll give some observations on his overall performance then I'll break down some individual plays.
The good thing is on all the plays I gave him a minus it was due to something that could be fixed through coaching. He was never out classed on any plays, never over powered, just simple youthful mistakes. He'll improve. He did get off balance at times and his hand punch could use some work, but overall it was a solid debut. I didn't see any tenacious aggression from Williams, but that isn't really his game, he more a technique guy that will shield off the defender. One constant throughout the game I picked up on was he didn't stay with his blocks. Most times the play was past him when his guy got off the block (so no harm done), but I'd like to see him lock on the defender til the whistle blows when ever possible. Nothing frustrates a defensive lineman more that a guy that is constantly in your face.
I won't go into every play in detail, but I'll pick out a few of the good and a few of the bad.
Play #1 - The 1st play of the game is a good snapshot of the kind of player Williams is. It had Williams seal the defensive end, James Hall, inside. It was only a two yard gain for Matt Forte, but Williams used good technique to seal his man.
Play #3 - The long pass to Devin Hester saw the Bears keep Greg Olsen in on the left side to help pass protect. They had a double tight formation as Kellen Davis also stayed in to help on the right side. It was a fake counter to Matt Forte (with Frank Omiyale pulling to the right) so Williams had to read the defensive line. Williams first set up as if to block the DE, but when the DE went outside to Olsen he moved in and took the DT which Olin Kreutz passed off to him.
Plays #6-#8 - On 3 consecutive plays on the goal line Williams drove James Hall back into the end zone. On 1st down Hall made the tackle after slipping off the Williams block and because of the slow cut back by Forte (but Williams should have sustained the block). On 2nd down Forte again ran inside but for no gain. Then on 3rd down the Bears ran off left tackle and Forte scored practically untouched.
Play #12 - On 1st and 10 after the long play to Earl Bennett the Bears again passed and the Rams ran a stunt. The DE went inside, and Williams passed him off to Omiyale, then LB James Laurinaitis looped outside and Williams picked him up. Good awareness by Williams.
Play #24 - On a 3rd and 4 Jay Cutler rolled out to his right and Williams only had to cut off his man from backside pursuit, he missed. He tried to reach block him to seal him off but he couldn't get there, he ran with him but couldn't keep up. I think he should have cut him initially or at least got into the defenders legs since it was a hard block to execute. His man had a long chase and never made it to Cutler, but Williams has to find a way to cut him off.
Play #27 - This was the 1st down end around to Devin Hester. Williams looked lost on the play. He immediately went to the 2nd level looking for a LB, but ended up watching LB Paris Lenon run by him and make the tackle on Hester.
Play #29 - This was the sack by Long. Earl Bennett motioned from wide left towards the right and it appeared he was supposed to chip Long before he turned back to the left sideline. Bennett was wide open on the out route, but Cutler had no time. If Williams was expecting the chip it makes sense why he was beat to the outside. Williams set up and looked as if he were expecting Long to come inside, if Bennett hits him it pushes Long to an inside move. Cutler may have snapped the ball a split second too early. Either way Williams can't get beat and should have recognized the missed chip block, a better hand punch would have left him in a better position. (I really liked the design of this play and expect to see Chicago run it this Sunday)
Play #35 - On 1st and 10 they ran Kahlil Bell around the left side for 7 yards, Williams and Olsen executed a combo block on the DE, then after the defender was secured Williams slipped off to block a LB.
Play #51 - This is the 8 yard run by Forte that the FOX crew replayed with a spotlight on Williams. Williams again made a textbook seal block on Long, he didn't drive him back very far, but simply got his hands on Long, moved his feet, and sealed him from the play.
If Williams gets the nod at LT again this week he'll have a different challenge against the Packers and the 3-4 defense. He'll have more reads to make as the Packers will zone blitz from time to time. He'll be matched up with an outside linebacker as much as, if not more than he'll be on a defensive end. It will be a good test for Williams and the Bears offense.