Williams, a first-round bust in Chicago, battles for starting LG job

ST. LOUIS — Not everyone wants to see the Rams become pass happy this season. But you can understand why left guard Chris Williams would rather see the team focus on the ground.

He is considered a better run blocker than pass protector and like anyone, Williams would prefer to do what he does best as often as possible. Still, he’s not expecting to see the Rams waste the talents of Sam Bradford and his fleet fleet of receivers.

“We have all these playmakers on the outside,” Williams says. “I think we’ll take advantage of whatever the defense gives us.”
Williams isn’t that concerned with the Rams’ attack yet because he has a more important matter to deal with: his job. Williams is battling fourth-year pro Shelley Smith for the starting spot to line up between center Scott Wells and left tackle Jake Long.

Not surprisingly, coach Jeff Fisher so far isn’t tipping his hand on who might have the edge going into the preseason opener at Cleveland on Thursday night.

“They’re doing good. They’re battling,” he says. “Both Chris and Shelley have improved.”

The coaches are being careful to give both candidates the same number of repetitions with the first unit. Williams works with the first-teamers one day; the next day is Smith’s turn. Based on such a schedule, Williams will start against the Browns. He doesn’t consider that any kind of hint as to who might be the front-runner.

“You can’t read too much into anything,” Williams says. “The coaches have been steady. We’ve been rotating every day. They want to see us day in and day out. I don’t think there’s anything special that they’re looking for, other than to see who will be reliable.”

After his four-plus largely disappointing seasons with the Bears, Williams says he is glad just to have a fresh opportunity. “It’s good to be somewhere else,” he says.

Williams, 27, was dumped by the Bears last October when he was beaten out for a starting job and plummeted on the offensive line depth chart. He soon hooked on with the Rams and, even though he played in only three games, he re-signed a one-year deal in the offseason.

The sixth-year pro out of Vanderbilt attributes his problems in Chicago to various factors. After being taken with the 14th pick of the 2008 draft, his rookie season quickly went downhill because of back problems. Despite leaving college as one of Vanderbilt’s most decorated offensive linemen, Williams was not cut out to be what the Bears wanted, the supreme pass blocker that is a left tackle. The Bears tried him elsewhere on the line, too, and Williams still left with the label of first-round bust.

“There were a lot of factors in Chicago,” Williams says. “Lot of things I couldn’t control, like injuries. I had some things I could control as well. It is what it is. I’m glad to be here. There’s a better opportunity here.”

While Fisher appears in no hurry to name his starting left guard, Williams is not a man of patience.

“I’d rather it be settled sooner than later,” he says. “That way, whoever it is can start working with the guys.”

Williams admits he will be “pretty disappointed” if he doesn’t win the position. But with experience across the line, Williams could prove valuable as a backup. After his tough times in Chicago, Williams knows he can control only so much.

“Make the team and contribute where you can,” he says. “If you don’t get the (starting) job, in this league, there will be opportunity to play this year at some position.”
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.