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Trent Williams coming up big for Redskins

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Trent Williams coming up big for Redskins

When Trent Williams was drafted fourth overall in 2010, the Redskins hoped the left tackle would develop into one of the NFL’s dominant players at the position. 

Two-plus seasons into a career that got off to a rocky start, Williams, at 24, is making significant strides toward earning elite status. 

“The question was work ethic,” Coach Mike Shanahan said this week of Williams’ reputation coming out of Oklahoma. “Was he going to get to the next level? I’ve seen that maturity since he’s been here, learning how to be a pro, learning how to be accountable, learning how to lead. You’re never positive he’s going to be able to do it, or have the discipline to do it. But you can see the progress, and you can see it in his play as well.”

The Redskins lead the NFL in rushing yards with 1,799 (two more than San Francisco). Running back Alfred Morris, meantime, is only 18 yards from 1,000, while quarterback Robert Griffin III ranks among the leaders in completion percentage.

Some of that is the sublime talent Morris and Griffin possess. A decent amount of it, though, is an overachieving Williams-led offensive line that has consistently opened holes for Morris and provided ample time for Griffin to fire off accurate passes.

“Being in the NFC, you [face] all of the top defensive ends, all the top pass rushers,” Williams said. “I’m getting used to that. It’s never easy, but I’m adapting to it. Things are slowing down for me.”

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Williams has given up three sacks (of Griffin’s 25), one quarterback hit and 12 hurries (four coming as he limped through the Dallas game with a bruised thigh).

When Williams dissects film of his performances, he said a couple of things jump off the screen: both his downfield blocks and technique in pass protection are much improved over his sophomore season. He's also more aggressive and instinctual, products of experience and growing confidence.

That said, Williams conceded that he considers himself far from a finished product.

“As a player, you strive to be great,” he said. “Five years down the line, I want it to be a consensus that I’m the best tackle in the game. And I’m going to continue to work hard until I reach that goal.”

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck believes Williams already is well on his way.

“He’s coming into his own as far as being one of the premier left tackles in the league,” Tuck said. “A lot of teams give their linemen a lot of help. I haven’t seen the Redskins give him much help. That lets me know how confident they are in him.”

Asked about the increasing Pro Bowl chatter surrounding his name in recent weeks, Williams smiled said, “I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t mean anything. Of course it means a lot. It means my hard work is finally getting recognized and finally paying off.”

Laying the foundation for his breakout season, however, happened far from the practice fields and classrooms of Redskins Park. It began with getting his personal affairs in order after he missed the final four games of the 2011 season because of an NFL suspension for failed drug tests.

“Last year,” he said, “on the field, I did okay. I played pretty well. In the locker room I was always a good teammate. I got voted a team captain. There were just some things, some decisions I had to make in my personal life, some habits I had to break.”

So far this season, Williams has, by all accounts, been better than a “good” teammate. He’s been an exemplary one. Elected a team captain for the second straight season, he has not missed a game, despite being hampered by bone bruises in his foot and knee as well as ankle and shoulder injuries.

In the Redskins’ victory at Cowboys Stadium on Thanksgiving, Williams suffered a deep thigh bruise when he collided with teammate Kory Lichtensteiger on the third play of the game.

He did not miss a snap.

“It’s heart,” Williams said. “When your body feels pain, you automatically want to shut down. It’s not an easy thing to play through, especially when you play against people who get paid millions to beat you.”

Said Shanahan: “I appreciate him fighting through it and staying out there and helping us win.”

The injury limited Williams in practice and he’s listed as questionable for Monday night’s pivotal showdown with the Giants. But if prior history is any indication, No. 71 will suit up – sporting thigh pads for the first time and possibly a slight limp.

“When you’re less than 100-percent, it makes it that much harder,” Williams said. “I just feel like for me to be a huge asset to this team, I have to play hurt and I have to be able to finish games.”

Williams’ grit hasn’t gone unnoticed by teammates. Asked about Williams' thigh injury, Griffin joked that he would “rub on his leg” if that helped the 6 foot 5, 325 pound tackle heal up.

One of the characters in the Redskins’ locker room, Williams cracked that he appreciated the offer but politely declined it.

“I told him he can keep that,” he said with a chuckle. “He has not rubbed my leg. At no time will he touch my upper thigh.” 

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Redskins Draft Room Revealed: Who works the phones, and who makes the call

Redskins Draft Room Revealed: Who works the phones, and who makes the call

Since the dismissal of former general manager Scot McCloughan, there's been little question who was in charge at Redskins Park. Unofficially anyway. 

Bruce Allen is back running the show, if he ever stopped, and will be at the center of the Redskins draft room and decision making process.

For weeks, Allen and Jay Gruden made clear that the entire Redskins front office - from scouts to the top brass - have input on draft grades. Those grades will determine what players the 'Skins take, and the team is unlikely to deviate from their draft board. 

On Monday, however, Washington director of college scouting Scott Campbell addressed the media and explained that when a decision needs to be made, it will be Allen's call. 

From Campbell:

The way we have the room when the draft is ongoing is we have Eric Schaffer and Alex Santos are constantly calling teams above us. They’re taking the phone calls from the other teams – also behind [us]. A lot of times per Bruce’s instructions, he’ll say, ‘Hey, you take these five teams. You take the next five teams. Start making calls.’ And then we’re receiving calls too at the same time. Once they get that information, they’ll tell the table in the front and say, ‘Hey, we can trade back for this, we can trade up for that.’ It would be me and Bruce and Jay saying ‘No, no, we’ve got enough guys there’ or say ‘I like these guys,’ or like, “Hey, there’s guys there.’ So it’s kind of a discussion amongst the people, and most times it’s Bruce saying, ‘Just tell them we’re not interested,’ or he says, ‘Get the league on the phone. We’re going to make that trade.’”

Campbell's comments reveal quite a lot. To start, it's interesting to know the roles of Schaffer and Santos during the draft. Both men carry a lot of impact in the team's personnel selection. Also, and it was fairly obvious since McCloughan's firing, but Jay Gruden's role continues to increase.

The biggest tell, however, is that ultimately Bruce Allen makes the decisions. It's not a surprise, but it is important to know. Officially.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins won't say if Joe Mixon is on their board but say character does count

Redskins won't say if Joe Mixon is on their board but say character does count

The Redskins may or may not have one of the most polarizing members of the 2017 draft class on their draft board. But they do believe that character counts.

Scott Campbell, the Redskins’ director of college scouting, would not say if  Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who is seen on video striking a woman and knocking her to the floor in an incident that occurred in July of 2014, is on the team’s board.

“We don't announce who's on and off the board for strategic reasons,” said Campbell on Monday at the team’s pre-draft news conference, saying that it’s the team’s policy.

He added that incidents like the one that Mixon was a part of do come into consideration.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

“Character is very important to me, it's very important to the Redskins,” said Campbell.

He explained that early in the scouting process, character issues are not taken into account.

“What I always told the scouts and how I was trained 30 years ago when I started is when you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don't factor in the character, you don't grade character, you grade talent,” said Campbell, who has been with the Redskins organization for 16 years. “You don't throw away somebody early who may have some redeeming quality or a part of the story you didn't know about.”

It’s later on that the scouts gather information on such incidents as problems with the law, failed drug tests, and other quarters of character.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often 

“Our scouts do a great job getting a lot of information,” said Campbell. “Some of the incidents you brought up happened after the season, at the combine, and just a few days ago. All those things are factored into an evaluation as they are gathered.”

With that information at hand, they start the process of elimination, deciding who fits and who doesn’t.

“When it comes close to the draft, you start weeding out all that, getting more information, deciding, OK, that guy's not our kind of guy, that guy's not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted but good luck to them,” said Campbell.

It seems like much more of a gut feel type of process than anything rigid. There is not much of a clue there as to whether or not the team will consider bringing Mixon aboard, who is inarguably one of the most talented running backs in the draft. The upside is that Mixon could provide a jolt to the team’s offense. The downside would be an immediate public relations hit. The team also must consider what will happen if Mixon were to run afoul of the NFL’s domestic abuse policy in the future, which calls for a six-game suspension for a first offense with penalties getting progressively worse if problems persist.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.