Niner Noise looks at what new 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams will bring to the offense as a replacement for Joe Staley.
If you knew at the conclusion of Super Bowl LIV the San Francisco 49ers would lose veteran left tackle Joe Staley to retirement this offseason, you’d be shocked and arguably panic a bit wondering who could possibly fill the void in 2020.
Turns out, the Niners got a steal of a deal by trading for seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams in a deal with the Washington Redskins, sending off two mid-round NFL Draft picks, one in 2020 and another in 2021.
Some could make an argument the 31-year-old Williams is a clear upgrade over Staley at this point in his career.
Of course, Williams sat out all of 2019 while seeking a new contract. Some could question just how game ready Williams will be once the regular season starts. But the safe bet is to assume he hasn’t simply forgotten how to play.
So, what kind of player are the 49ers getting?
“Joe Staley is a really good tackle — don’t get me wrong,” former Niners general manager Scot McCloughan told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch. “But he ain’t Trent Williams. He hasn’t been Trent Williams. And won’t be Trent Williams when Trent’s career is over and you compare them.”
And at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, Williams moves awfully well for a player of his size. As McCloughan also pointed out, players like that don’t come around very often.
49ers’ Trent Williams by the analytics
Williams’ rookie year was a little rough, at least according to Pro Football Focus who credited him with 11 sacks allowed. But aside from eight sacks allowed in 2013, Williams never again allowed more than four in a year.
In 2018, Williams’ last season, he allowed just one on 491 pass-blocking snaps. Over his career, Williams has been credited with 36 sacks allowed. Staley allowed 45 during that same time frame.
Williams’ PFF run-blocking grades have been above 80.0 every year played since 2013. And while his run-blocking grade (69.9) took a bit of a hit in 2018, he’s still good enough a mover to open up outside-zone rushing lanes for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Film review: How the 49ers’ new tackle will fit in on offense
There’s no question Williams will offer better protection for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and it shows up on the film.
One of the players Williams will face twice this season is Arizona Cardinals EDGE Chandler Jones, who had 19 sacks in 2019 and was half a sack from tying Tampa Bay Buccaneers EDGE Shaquil Barrett for the league lead.
In this 2018 matchup between Washington and the Cardinals, Williams shuts Jones down and even manages to open up some notable rushing lanes, too:
On the few occasions Jones beats Williams around the edge, the tackle simply and smoothly pushes the pass-rusher behind the pocket.
It’s one thing to see Williams eat up Jones. It’s another to see him get out to the second level quickly to open up more rushing lanes. And if you go to the 1:20 mark of the above video, you’ll see why.
Yet there’s more to Williams’ game than just being able to shut down a single elite edge rusher. Williams is also more than adept and smart to recognize various blitz packages, fake pressures and stunts, which the Jackson Krueger Sports scouting-report video shows below:
Further clips on the video further illustrate Williams’ footwork, which is arguably the biggest part of an offensive lineman’s form.
After all, if you’re out of position or slow to react, bad things will happen. For a player his size, Williams has no difficulty moving with ease and dictating the kind of play he’ll showcase on the field instead of reacting to it.
No wonder why he’s a perennial Pro Bowler.
Williams is, of course, a pending free agent after this season. Both Williams and the 49ers aren’t in a rush to sign some lucrative contract extension right away, which is understandable enough given the veteran hasn’t played in a full year and the Niners aren’t exactly laden with tons of cap space.
That said, there’s an excellent chance Williams showcases why he’s such a talent, convincing San Francisco he’s worth the big-bucks deal he’ll likely command on the open market a little less than a year from now.