The defensive lineman spent more than two months in Houston training with Trent Williams, which has him feeling ready for an open competition this year.
Having a home in the Houston, Texas metro area in the offseason and being a member of the Washington Redskins has its perks if you're defensive lineman Joey Mbu.
That combination, something Mbu didn't have last season as he finished his rookie year with Falcons, meant a couple months of working out with teammate Trent Williams at the left tackle's now semi-famous training facility, where star athletes in the area call up the big man to begin their training regimen for the new season.
Working out for nearly three months there, Mbu, who finished his second NFL season on the Redskins' practice squad, did just about everything that Williams' facility could provide. He chugged up the big hill Williams had installed, ran around his track and lifted weights, and did so with Adrian Peterson, James Wright and Jerick McKinnon, to name just a few.
"Trent is tough and a really good trainer," said Mbu, who plans to go back in June and ramp up workouts even more. "I am in shape now and that's all that matters."
Mbu is hoping to take the progress from those workouts with him to the field this spring and take a leap forward in production in his second season. Having Williams as a mentor the last couple months has given him a better blueprint to achieve that.
"I learned a lot about consistency. A lot about the mental game of football," Mbu said. "He obviously is from the offensive end and he taught me what the weak points are in the offensive line. [He taught me] work ethic, in the sense that he is literally there all day just working out, boxing, this and that. That is the work ethic I got from him…he has a really good personality and helps me with learning my surroundings. That's a big thing, especially the person in his situation being a top guy and everything, learning his surroundings is a very key thing to him."
Mbu did the best to be aware of his surroundings last season when he signed to Washington's practice squad, desiring to play on the active roster but also recognizing his place within the team.
"I started watching who was playing and what they were doing really well or messing up with and I took their advice and got better in practice squad," he said. Mbu studied film from last year's practices as well as players with his similar frame – 6-foot-3, 310 pounds – trying to replicate moves that cater to what his strengths are.
Check out images of the Washington Redskins' fourth day of Phase 1 offseason workouts at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
"My goal is to [not only] make the active roster, but play," Mbu clarified. "I want to make sure I make an impact this year. That's always my goal about making it, I want to make the roster but make an impact. Coach [Jim] Tomsula is a great coach. He is one of the most unorthodox coaches I have ever had but he is a pretty good coach that brings a lot of experience. He tells us all the time to focus on the little things."
Exactly how is Tomsula unorthodox? Mbu recalled a meeting session with the defensive line earlier this week in which Tomsula took 30 minutes to discuss players' personal finances and stories about former players abusing their wealth.
"But we got football out of it, it's so weird," Mbu said. "It's really interesting and I can't wait to learn more from him, not only about football but more about life. He is a really good football teacher that teaches you football. Not only what you're supposed to do or what gap you're supposed to be in, he teaches you the other things about football that he assumes you know but he wants to make sure everybody is on the same page. That is really valuable and it's only been a week."
Tomsula has told them not to get caught up in the hype, and that the best players will play. Head coach Jay Gruden has spoken positively about Mbu and the Houston product knows that the defensive line doesn't have anyone guaranteed a position. This will be his best chance to make an impression.
"I just know how hard I have been working and I see it coming back here and seeing where everyone else is at," Mbu said. "I know what I did in the offseason so it's like a mental bonus in your head. Knowing that it's damn near wide open for whatever spot it helps you know that nothing is set in stone, no politics behind it and it's just straight football. If I come in and do my job, I give myself a great shot."