When G Chris Williams entered the league as the 14th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft as a left tackle, he was seen as a player who would help stabilize a troubled offensive line in Chicago. Instead the early part of his career was pock marked with limited peaks and very frustrating valleys. It's only now in his seventh NFL season that the stabilizing force he's capable of being is coming to fruition in Buffalo.
Establishing himself as a dependable starter with the Rams over the last season and a half is what enabled him to land a respectable free agent contract with the Bills this offseason as well asthe starting left guard position in Buffalo.
Williams started his career with the Chicago Bears, but was quickly sidelined with a herniated disk which would later require surgery, causing Williams to sit until that September. After recovering, he played in nine games, primarily with special teams.
Fast forward a year and Williams was moved over to right tackle. There, Williams started and played in all 16 games, but a hamstring injury the following year put him out three games and was what prompted his coaches to move him inside to right guard where he played until a few weeks into the 2012 season before he was released altogether by Chicago. A short time later he was picked up by the St. Louis Rams.
During the rest of that season and the one to follow, Williams worked his way up to another full-time starting role at guard, culminating in his second complete season as a starter, last season.
Left guard was a turnstile position for the Bills last season. Williams' arrival is designed to end the player turnover there, but he's not assuming he has the role locked up.
"You just come out and work. I try to earn my spot everywhere I go," said Williams. "I'm just coming out here working and I want to be the best player at my position and that's what I'm working on. That's what I came here for. Winning is the number one goal and me playing well is a part of that so I'm going to do the best job possible to help us win as a team."
Unlike his when he first arrived in St. Louis, in Buffalo, Williams has much more time to pick up the playbook, something he had to do on the fly with the Rams when he was signed in late October.
"It's a lot less stressful," said Williams. "I've got OTAs and minicamp all under my belt and have gotten settled in the offense. I've been here for install from day one of OTAs and kind of get the whole system. It's been good being able to pick up all the nuances and stuff."
With only the first few weeks of camp and the Hall of Fame game under his belt, Williams has already begun to convince his teammates that they can rely on him.
"Chris has done a great job since he's gotten here," said C Eric Wood. "He's a super intelligent player which makes it easy for me knowing I can have complete trust in him on every play. He's done a good job for us. He's been a nice addition for our O-line."
But what makes Williams an even more valuable addition is his ability to step in and be a mentor, especially for rookie left tackle Seantrel Henderson.
"Chris has been really helpful," said Henderson. "If it wasn't for Chris there would probably be a lot of plays out there that I wouldn't really know. Anytime I have a question right before the play Chris will help me out."
The role as a mentor seems natural to Williams after beginning his NFL career as a left tackle himself. As he sees it Henderson is coming along.
"I wish I was as physically gifted as he is, but his head is spinning a little bit which is understandable," said Williams. "The defenses are throwing a lot at us. It isn't like we have bad defensive ends or anything like that. The speed of the game is an adjustment for him. Once he gets to the point where the game slows down for him he'll be fine."
Williams' work with Henderson, who has lined up next to him every day in practice, did not go unnoticed by the other veteran linemates.
"Chris has helped out our tackles tremendously," said Wood. "He's intelligent and a guy we can really rely on and a guy who can mentor our young tackles because he's played the position."
Along with his seven years of professional experience, Williams comes equipped with plenty of experience against some of the top defensive fronts in the NFL. Playing in the NFC West the last year and a half, Williams had to twice face the number one (Seattle), number five (San Francisco) and number six (Arizona) defensive units in the league last year.
"He's battle tested that's for sure," said Wood. "Facing our D-line he's not going to be shell shocked by how aggressive or talented they are. That doesn't mean he wins all the time, but he's not caught off guard."
But above all else, Williams comes to Buffalo ready to prove he can help raise the play of their line another notch.
"I think for me putting on a Bills jersey will be fun," said Williams. "You just want to go out there and get your feet wet and just get it started. You've got to start somewhere so it's that first piece of foundation for the season so you want to go out there and have a good showing no doubt and just lay that first brick and go on from there."