At this time last season, Frank Omiyale was still struggling while making the adjustment from tackle to guard. For whatever reason, the transition has gone smoother for Chris Williams, who already feels at home after four games at guard despite playing tackle throughout his college and brief NFL career.
"I've been amazed at how quickly he has adjusted," said Omiyale, who is relieved to be back at tackle, which he considers his natural position. "He has taken the criticism and gotten a lot better. It definitely proves he's a better athlete than I am."
It wouldn't seem as if there would be a big difference between playing guard and tackle. Just line up and block somebody, right? Those who have made the transition claim otherwise.
"It's like moving from quarterback to tight end, and I know a guy who did that and it was really tough," said offensive line coach Mike Tice, who played quarterback at Maryland before logging 14 years as an NFL tight end. "It's that tough."
The biggest difference is there is less less reaction time at guard, which means a player must be quicker mentally and physically to play the interior line.
"It happens faster, much faster," Tice said. "Everything is short-stroke movements. Footwork has to be short stroke, your punch has to be shorter. It's a whole different body movement. You have to be more compact, more balanced. You have to know when to be aggressive and when to stay back. There are just a whole lot of nuances to it.
"It's like any of us who get into something new for the first time. Each week there are learning curves and anticipated grey areas that won't be sorted out whether you're a veteran or not. We hope as a veteran player with a lot of intelligence and pride and passion that each week he's going to sort out more and more of those gray areas and he'll learn from some of his mistakes during the game and correct them."
Another major difference is knowing whom to block. At tackle, it's simple. It's more complex and takes more coordination at guard depending on the defensive alignments and blitz packages.
"At tackle, you block the end, block the end, block the end," Williams said. "Inside, you have the noseguard, this linebacker, that linebacker. There are a lot more moving parts."