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Browns LB coach Blake Williams: Jamie Collins’ commitment to Cleveland, and the middle linebacker competition

The son of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams talks about Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, Tank Carder, and Joe Schobert prior to Day 7’s practice.

Earlier, we recapped what tight ends coach Greg Seamon had to say prior to Day 7 of Cleveland Browns training camp. Now, let’s check out the other positional coach who talked: inside linebackers coach Blake Williams.

Blake Williams

  • You should recall that Blake is the son of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Here is what Williams had to say about the challenges of having your father be the coordinator, acknowledging the fact that nepotism is indeed a big reason he’s been able to have the opportunity of working in the NFL:

“I am shocked he is not standing back here right now critiquing my body language and everything, everything I am saying and telling me to take my hat off and all that stuff (laughter). No, maybe earlier in my career and you are maybe a little bit more aware of it. You realize your résumé and you realize why you are there. You realize it has a level of nepotism that is involved with it. It is a who you know in order to get a chance to show what you know business and your resume at 21 years old, coaching in the league like I was, doesn’t necessarily warrant that outside of your name, so I think maybe you are slightly maybe a little bit more aware of that and you want to really sell the players. I think you get to this point in time where it really does not matter. The players know that at the end of the day it is about knowing what he wants and nobody probably knows what he wants him to do more than me. It is almost maybe a reversal effect now, where even at other position groups, it is like, ‘Well, how is Gregg going to respond in this situation? How is Gregg going to do this? How is Gregg going to do this?’ and I am able to kind of give them a little insight on that. It is probably a reverse effect.”

  • Williams was asked about several of his players, so let’s start with the biggest name of the group: OLB Jamie Collins. Williams wasn’t here last year when Collins was first traded to the Browns, but he praised the stories he was told about his commitment to studying the new system and playing on the fly:

“As I was told, they just gave him the playbook [last year] and that’s how Jamie learns best. He just sat there throughout that first week and just read the playbook, memorized it all and just went out and played and took every single snap. You have seen him do the same thing this year. ... The phraseology that I use is he can just think football. ... There may be guys with higher test scores every once and a while and stuff like that, that get stuff confused, and you will hear him over there like, ‘Hey, it is just football.’ He will know not only what he is supposed to do, but what they are supposed to do, what a DB is supposed to do and what a D lineman is supposed to do. He gets the concept of what he is doing and that allows him to use some of the unique athleticism that he can do and we can kind of move him around and technically play him at different positions.”

  • When asked about the starting middle linebacker job and specifically whether Tank Carder is doing what he needs to do to win a starting role, Williams said “yes,” but then he was quick to point out that Joe Schobert and some other guys who don’t get reps with the first-team defense are also doing their jobs — putting themselves in position to possible be contributors or rotational players on gameday.
  • A reporter asked about Carder being in the league for six years, but never cracking a starting role. Williams said that Carder has been candid about wanting to play — in the NFL, you have players who have been ‘the man’ all their lives when it comes to football, and in the NFL, they take a back seat. But he knows what this opportunity means personally for Carder:

“We all want to play. We all want to do that. There's great pride in being a career special teams player. But, every once in awhile, and maybe it's taken him a little longer than Christian Kirksey [to get there], you gravitate through the ranks and all of a sudden you get your shot. So yes, it's very important to him.”

  • A reporter asked what percentage of the time we’ll see a middle linebacker on the field. We should already know the answer from Gregg Williams’ time with the Rams, and Blake understandably deferred that question to his father. But he did stress that there is a need for three linebackers when they want to go with a 3-3-5 defense for some nickel situations.
  • Shifting gears to OLB Christian Kirksey, Williams said that when you look at his body type and athleticism, he almost looks like a safety, which is why it’s such a surprise just how powerful he is.
  • Perhaps the most interesting part of Williams’ press conference came at the end, when he talked about LB Joe Schobert’s role as a rookie vs. what they expect of him in 2017.

“This is just my opinion -- [Schobert] is not a 3-4 outside linebacker. That's what he kind of played in college and what he played last year. That's not what his body is. The former big-time high school basketball player, the guy who used to play receiver, the guy that went viral last year vertical jumping -- taking the ball underneath his legs while in mid-air to dunk it -- that's who Joe is. That's not necessarily a 3-4 outside linebacker. It's more probably a 4-3 linebacker. What's interesting about Joe that you've seen this year is that he's reduced weight a bunch, but he's actually a lot stronger and more powerful. His ability to do some of these things -- that basketball athleticism -- allows him to be a good MIKE and WILL. But then, all of sudden, some of that time he's had of being a pass rusher allows him to even be a SAM down on the ball and pass rushing. He can really be a jack-of-all-trades.”