Since defensive lineman Brandon Williams' arrival last year as a third-round draft pick, the Ravens regard the strongman from Missouri Southern as one of their most-improved players.
Williams has been installed as the Ravens' new starting nose guard with Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata having taken over Arthur Jones' old defensive tackle spot.
"I feel good, there's obviously a lot of things I can get better at," Williams said. "That's just going to come with time and practice. I definitely feel a lot more comfortable with the playoff, with the speed of the game and everything."
At 6-feet-1, 335 pounds, Williams has a stocky build and outstanding strength -- especially in his upper body.
At the NFL scouting combine last year, he bench pressed 225 pounds 38 times. Williams has a maximum bench press of 525 pounds. He was also featured in a viral YouTube video where he walked on his hands.
"Brandon has progressed quite a bit," defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. "I mean, he’s got a lot of strength, he’s got a lot of toughness, he understands the scheme, and he understands what’s expected of him.
"Trying to be a starter for us, that’s what he wants to do and he’s going after that. He's been tremendously serious about how he’s working. His offseason was good. He’s in great condition, so we feel good about where he’s headed.
"He was strong when he walked in, but now his strength is a lot more functional because he understands the technical part of the game a lot better. He understands how we play a lot better and how we want things done. He understands that, and he was able to take his natural strength and work it into what we want. So far, everything is on the upswing.”
As a rookie last year, Williams wasn't very productive.
He was limited by a toe injury and finished the season with six tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery in seven games.
He's gotten in better cardiovascular shape and is much leaner than last year.
Now he's primed to become a full-time player in the Ravens' defense heading into the second year of a four-year, $2.675 million contract that includes a $515,000 signing bonus.
"I'm getting pretty good feedback," Williams said. "I'm worried about what I'm doing wrong, what I need to get better at. I can tell ... there's still things I need to work on.
"I want to show I'm a lot better than last year. I've definitely improved over the offseason and summer. I'm in better shape and ready to do my job."
Williams' primary job responsibility is to clog up the middle, occupying blockers so linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley can run freely to the football to make the tackle.
Williams' ambition doesn't stop with that baseline of expectations, though.
"Keep blockers off 'backers, yeah, and also make plays," Williams said. "I'm here to make plays, too. You start with the fundamentals, and you also try to make plays."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun